National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

Snakes Awake!

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Smooth snake

Smooth snake

Snakes are on the move again after their winter shutdown and, with great stealth and a bit of luck, it’s possible to see all three native British species on National Trust land in Purbeck.
Look for adders in the heathland or the edges of open woodland. Interestingly, they have the widest global distribution of all terrestrial snakes and are the only species to occur within the Arctic Circle.
Grass snakes are sometimes known as water snakes because they are good swimmers and their preferred food is amphibians and fish. Their Latin name, Natrix, means swimmer or water lover. Look for them around the margins of Little Sea.
Smooth snakes are the biggest challenge because they are a very secretive heathland specialist preferring areas of deep mature heather on south facing slopes. Most species of snake have a keel on their scales, a raised ridge like the midrib on a leaf, but smooth snakes are extra-smooth because their scales lack this feature. Their Latin name, Coronella, means ‘small crown’, referring to the dark, heart-shaped mark on the top of the head.


Author: Kevin Rideout

National Trust Visitor Experience Officer based at Studland

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