The smooth snake is the rarest of our three native snakes. It is naturally restricted and can only survive on lowland heath habitats in southern England. Due to historical habitat loss and site fragmentation, native populations are now restricted to heathland sites in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey.

Key elements of smooth snake conservation include: protection of existing sites and populations; enhancement of existing sites; monitoring of both the species and its habitats and species re-introduction. ARC is currently finalising the Species Action Plan, monitoring and re-introduction plans to enhance the conservation status of this species.

ARC and NE have recently identified the majority of the SSSIs (and the subdivisions of SSSIs known as “units”) where the species is or could be listed as an Interest Feature. This would help recognise the smooth snake’srarity and promote beneficial habitat management.

ARC provides guidance to site managers where management is required to improve the population.

ARC also advises on major habitat initiatives that could restore, enhance and reconnect former habitats e.g. Forestry Commission Design Plans, Mineral Plans restoration schemes, Nature Improvement Areas and many others in partnership with agencies, NGOs and individual site managers.

Monitoring of both habitat condition and the species is essential to assess how the species is faring nationally and locally. ARC is devising and promoting habitat and species monitoring nationally in partnership with agencies, NGOs, ARGs, conservation land managers and volunteers. ARC has recently started a partnership, the New Forest Smooth Snake Survey to assess the species range. Our work is supported by local MP Desmond Swayne, who holds the role of smooth snake Species Champion.

ARC, with partners, also undertakes re-introductions to restore the historic range of smooth snakes. Ten such reintroductions have been completed, with all demonstrating success through follow-up monitoring. A recent example is the re-introduction to Devon undertaken in partnership with RSPB.

Conserving smooth snakes and other heathland reptiles: guidance for land-managers and ecologists

The purpose of the guidance is to enable people who look after heathland sites to consider the needs of smooth snakes and other reptiles during heathland management. This series of notes and resources has been adapted from training and workshop materials used during the Snakes in the Heather project. 

Read guidance