The grass snake (Natrix helvatica) is one of the focal species for ARC’s Connecting the Dragons project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project will assist grass snake conservation by encouraging the public and landowners to create and maintain their egg-laying sites. Grass snakes are the UK's only egg laying snake and they need the heat produced by rotting vegetation to incubate their eggs. Eggs are usually laid June and July and hatch into miniature versions of the adults in in August or early September.

They need our help now, more than ever!

How do you go about creating a supreme egg-laying site? The heaps are best situated in a sunny spot, adjacent to tall/scrubby vegetation with connectivity to hedgerows and other features. When it comes to the size of the heap, bigger is most definitely better! Creating a base of brash (sticks/branches) leaves gaps for the snakes to get into the heap and pick the perfect spot. A range of materials can be used to generate the heat, whatever you have to hand (meadow cuttings, leaves, wood chip), but a mixture that includes some fresh manure is best. If you have unused or spoilt bales of silage or hay these are also perfect if allowed to rot down. Grass snakes will lay their eggs in plastic compost bins if there is some way for them to get in.

The heap should be topped up every year (April / May) and left undisturbed from June until at least October, but ideally until the following spring. Placing some tarp or a piece of carpet on top can help hold the heat in and assist with monitoring to see if grass snakes are using the heap over the summer and autumn.

Find out more about grass snakes on our species information page and if you are lucky enough to find a grass snake or other amphibians and reptiles in your garden please do let us know and take part in Garden Dragon Watch.

Funded by: