Background on adders

Adders are perhaps the most well-known of the three native species of snake, for their clear ‘zig-zag’ markings and the fact that they are the UK’s only venomous snake. The latter often means that they are misunderstood and, in some cases, persecuted. Adders are the most widespread of our native snake species, found from the south of England to the far north of Scotland. Within that broad range, however, they are very rare in some regions, and recent population declines have become a major conservation concern.

Overview of ARC's work on adders 

ARC supports adder conservation in a number of ways. Adders live on many of our nature reserves, and we are undertaking survey and habitat management to conserve these populations. We work with a wide range of other landowners to promote adder-friendly habitat management. Through our regional projects we are undertaking habitat management to create and reconnect adder populations. Our communications work includes helping the public identify adders and giving advice on what to do when adders are found in gardens. Our National Amphibian and Reptile Monitoring Programme includes surveys that tell us about the status of adders and supports local monitoring efforts. We work with the media to provide helpful and accurate advice on adder issues. Our advocacy work encourages the adoption of policies and legislation that would benefit adders. We work with scientists to promote research that will help adder conservation, and we hold an annual conference to allow researchers to feed back their findings to the conservation community. Due to the fact that adders are found in all regions of Great Britain, much of our work on adders is integrated with efforts to conserve other reptiles, rather than being a standalone project.

Adder Action

Natur am Byth Adder Action will work across Wales to help understand and begin to address the recent (and potentially urgent) declines in adder populations, thus hopefully helping the species along its recovery curve. There are several main objectives of Adder Action, read them on the project page.

Connecting the Dragons

In South Wales, the Connecting the Dragons project aims to improve how adder habitat is managed, deliver a coordinated Citizen Science based reptile survey with a focus on adder hibernation sites and increase the understanding of adders (one of the target natural heritage species) in the public eye. The team have been undertaking habitat management to benefit local adder populations and reaching out to the public to advocate for adders, helping to create awareness of the species.

Reptile survey by Mike Berwick

Adam the adder

Part of the aforementioned Connecting the Dragons project involved the creation of a public awareness campaign, Adam the Adder. Television presenters and ARC patrons, Chris Packham and Iolo Williams teamed up with ARC to create a new fun and informative animated adder guide to help tell the real story of this elusive and endangered reptile.

Saving Scotland's Amphibians and Reptiles 

Our current Scottish project has similar aims of public awareness, engagement and training. As well as this, our staff are involved with the Scottish National Adder Survey, a partnership with ARG UK and NatureScot. This project appeals to farmers, landowners and land managers to take part in the online Scottish Adder Survey to help shed more light on their distribution and conservation status.

Snakes in the Heather 

Our previous heathland’s project, Snakes in the Heather, held the adder as one of its target species. The project offered reptile identification and survey training for partner organisations and for volunteers for the Snakes in the Heather project, generating a sustaining legacy of volunteers monitoring heathland adder populations. Some of the project’s other aims included education of the public around the adder, at events and online through the creation of the free adder photo library. Visit the project's round up to see the outcome of these targets. 

Free adder photo library

ARC is now offering free online access to a selection of beautiful high-resolution adder photos, as part of our efforts to protect this species by reducing disturbance. We encourage their use for educational or creative projects which portray snakes in a positive light. Find out more about the Free Adder Photo Library.

Favourable status for adders 

Working with Natural England, ARC is developing the definition of Favourable Conservation Status for the adder in England. The project aims to define current and favourable status based on measures of range and distribution, population and habitat. ARC hopes that defining FCS will help national monitoring for adders and improve conservation strategies for the species.

Policy and legislation

Our work on policy and legislation aims to ensure that adders’ needs are better considered. This has resulted in helpful changes that we hope will bring tangible benefits to adder conservation. For example, we played a key role in revising guidance on protected sites, meaning that they can now be selected specifically for adders. We produced the first IUCN Red List assessment of reptiles and amphibians at country level, which highlighted the risks to adders. ARC’s ongoing work includes consideration of adders in themes including agri-environment schemes, tree-planting policy, and climate change adaptation.


We work with others to generate and share data on the species, especially ARG UK through the Record Pool. We also work with a range of external initiatives that help adders, for example the Garden Wildlife Health project which investigates health and disease status. Through the Back from the Brink programme, we explored some of the key issues facing adders; this resulted in papers including integration of multiple species objectives, and on work to recover adders in Rockingham Forest.


We encourage and support research that will help with adder conservation. For example, our Reptile Genebank has been used in research to investigate skin diseases in adders. PhD studies supported by ARC are looking into issues such as monitoring data analysis and the impact of releasing gamebirds. Through our annual Scientific Meeting, organised jointly with the British Herpetological Society, we offer an opportunity for adder researchers to share their results.

Adder advice

ARC also has a number of advice pages relating to adders, find them here:

Facts and advice on adder bites

Guidance on disturbance

Adders in Gardens


The Adder

Dogs ‘n’ Adders

If you would like to support this work, please visit our Sponsor the Adder page