Female grass snake eating toad
by Jeremy Le Maistre

A recent sighting of a grass snake Natrix helvetica in Jersey (Channel Islands) has received attention in the media. The stunning photographs by Jeremy Le Maistre capture the dramatic struggle between an adult female grass snake and its prey, a western toad (also known as a spined toad) Bufo spinosus.

Both species are protected in Jersey under the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000, following population declines and concerns over their long-term survival on the island. The images clearly depict the defence mechanism of the toad, locally referred to as a crapaud, having inflated itself to make it as difficult to eat as possible.

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation has a long history of involvement with wildlife conservation and research in Jersey, with two of its staff members having carried out their PhDs on the local grass snake and toad populations respectively, as well as subsequent research on the island’s wildlife.

The grass snake research carried out by Dr Rob Ward has shown that the snakes are particularly difficult to find and observe, but that there is a persisting population occupying the west of the island providing hope as to the species’ local survival.

Work carried out by colleague Dr John Wilkinson has looked at the ecology and genetics of Jersey’s toads, and has helped to identify that they are a different species to those in Britain. Connectivity of suitable habitat is perhaps the most important factor in ensuring the continued success and survival of these populations.


Arntzen, J.W., Wilkinson, J.W., Butôt, R. & Martínez-Solano, Í. (2014). A new vertebrate species native to the British Isles: Bufo spinosus Daudin, 1803 in Jersey. The Herpetological Journal, 24(4), 209-216. 

Link to publication 

Ward, R.J., Griffiths, R.A., Wilkinson, J.W. & Cornish, N. (2017). Optimising monitoring efforts for secretive snakes: a comparison of occupancy and N-mixture models for assessment of population status. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-12.

Link to publication 

You can find details of other research undertaken by ARC staff and trustees on our scientific papers page.