We are now offering free online access to a selection of adder photos, as part of our efforts to try and protect the welfare of this species by reducing disturbance. Please read the following information, including the ‘terms of use’ below, before downloading any of these photos.

Terms of use

Wildlife photographers have kindly donated some of their adder photos to our free online library. These photos are free to use.

  • Please do not use them as part of stories or products which negatively portray snakes.
  • Feel free to use the photos free of charge for educational or creative projects which portray snakes in a positive light.
  • The name of the wildlife photographer is included in the name of the image file (but at present, it is not retained when you download individual files from Flickr). Please remember to credit the photographer if you are using a photo in a situation where it is straightforward to do so (such as in an educational presentation) but it is not necessary if the use of text will compromise the style of the work being made.

We would be pleased to hear about anyone using these photos in a positive way; if you have done so, please let us know about your project by tagging us on social media (FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram). 

Jump to: Male | Female | Breeding behaviour | Juvenile | Melanistic | Feeding behaviour | Shedding skin ('sloughing') | FAQs


A male adder tends to have very dark zigzag markings and dark borders to the scales on his snout. His tail is also longer than that of a female, tapering more gradually towards the tip.

Adders - male

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A female adder usually has a brown zigzag marking (unlike males, who usually have a very dark, almost black zigzag) and her overall colour tends to be browner than the male. The scales on her snout are also less likely to have dark borders than those of male adders. The tail of the female (beyond the vent/cloaca) is shorter than that of a male and tapers more steeply towards the tip.

Adders - female

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Breeding behaviour 

Adders give birth to live young. Males wrestle or 'dance' to gain access to a female. Females need to bask in the sun to ensure their young develop.

Adder breeding behaviour

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Newborn adders are often a beautiful brick-red colour. Until they are mature adults, it can be difficult to tell the sex of adders from their colour or markings.

Adders - juvenile

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A small percentage of adders are very dark or almost black in appearance. These individuals have inherited a gene which results in increased production of the pigment melanin (the same pigment which results in dark hair or skin in many other animals).

Adders - melanistic

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Feeding behaviour

Adders are predators of other animals, including small rodents, lizards, amphibians and ground-nesting birds. The adder is venomous but its bite is rarely fatal to humans (and adders will usually only bite humans if trodden on, or otherwise provoked).

Adder feeding behaviour

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Shedding skin ('sloughing')

All snakes, including adders, shed (or 'slough') their skin at intervals as they grow.

Adders shedding skin ('sloughing')

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Can I donate my existing adder photos, and if so, how?

Please do not take more adder photos to contribute to our free adder photo library. However, if you already have some high quality adder photos which you would like to donate, in the first instance please email [email protected] with a description of what you have available.

Where can I record an adder sighting?

If you have recorded an adder, please upload your record to the Record Pool.

I have found a shed adder skin. What should I do?

It is possible to extract DNA from shed reptile skins (known as ‘sloughs’). This can be very useful for scientific research. For details on how to submit a slough, please read about the ARC Genebank.

Where can I learn more about adders?

See our dedicated page on the adder, with free advice leaflets, or try our new (for 2020) free online training courses, which include Identifying UK snakes and a Species Focus on the adder. You can also take a look at our Facts and Advice about adder bites.

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