Along with heatwaves and holiday hold-ups, stories about the UK’s only venomous snake, the adder, are a staple of the summer headlines.

Attention-grabbing reports like ‘Pet-killing snakes sweep across Britain’ may well have us looking up from our cornflakes.  But are they snake news or fake news?

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation - the national wildlife charity that gives a voice to snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, toads and newts - has created an advice note and web content to help people separate fact from fiction.

The adder (Vipera berus) is easily identified by a distinctive dark zig-zag marking along the back. Due to significant losses in recent decades, it is now recognised as a national conservation priority.

Jim Foster, ARC’s Conservation Director, said: “The biggest fear people have is that they or their dog will be bitten by a venomous snake while they are out for a walk.  The reassuring news is that the risk is exceedingly low, and where bites do occur they can be treated readily.

“There are hundreds of thousands of visits to the UK countryside every year and most people never see a snake.  Adders are timid creatures, normally retreating into cover when disturbed.”

The number of adder bites reported each year across the whole country is in the order of 50-100 for people and 100 for dogs. Adder bites tend to happen when the snake attempts to defend itself from perceived harm – for example when someone puts their hand or foot close to the snake or an inquisitive dog tries to investigate. While some bites happen through genuine accidents, many occur when people attempt to pick up or harm the adder. However a bite occurs, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

For people the best way to reduce the risk of a bite is to keep to footpaths and admire a basking snake from a safe distance, giving it space.  For dogs keep them close and under control when in heathland or other adder habitat, especially in July and August.

Jim Foster added: “If you or your dog are bitten effective treatment is available from the hospital or vet.  Full advice on avoiding bites and what to do in the case of a bite is available on the ARC website at .

“People’s fear of this secretive and beautiful animal contributes to its vulnerability in the UK, yet with an understanding of the facts, people and adders can co-exist happily.”