ARC’s Snakes in the Heather Public Engagement and Education Officer, Owain Masters fills us in on what the team have been up to and what they have planned for the busy winter season ahead.

Sssmooth sssnake sssleepy time... To survive the winter here in the UK, reptiles will spend their time hibernating (or 'brumating' for the clever-clogs among you!). They will choose a place underground that is dry, frost-free, and safe from predators. Unused mammal burrows are often a favourite retreat, but so too are the stumps of dead or rotten trees and root holes, or even in large grass tussocks. Suitable hibernation sites (known as hibernacula) tend to have a southerly aspect, and are usually in full or partial sun, whilst being on well-drained substrate. There is very little data on actual smooth snake hibernacula so we aren’t completely sure whether they hibernate alone or communally, and whether they group together with other reptile species. It is likely a combination of these, something we hope to find out over the coming years of reptile surveys undertaken as part of the project.

Smooth snakes might be hibernating from November until the spring, but we certainly are not! It’ll be a packed winter for us:

We are getting everything ready for a full-on season next year which will start with reptile survey training, ensuring partner staff and our Citizen Scientists have all the tools and knowledge needed to start the surveys as the reptile emerge.

If you have questions about next year’s reptile surveys please email [email protected]

Our outreach programme is similarly busy. We are running regular volunteer days, some of which will be on weekends to make them accessible to families. See our Events page for details.

It is also time for the launch of ARC’s children’s story book, ‘In Search of Old Uncle Blue’. The book is going live on our online shop on December 1st and, we might be biased but, we think this is a great gift for young ones this Christmas! The plot involves an adventure across the landscape, a journey of self-discovery and lots of educational titbits throughout. Please be sure to spread the word.

If you would like to book a talk about UK reptiles for a school or community group over the winter or into next year please email [email protected].

Snakes in the Heather is supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

ARC also thanks the Banister Charitable Trust and Love the Forest for generous donations to the Snakes in the Heather project.