The smooth snake is Britain’s rarest reptile, yet its status and conservation needs are poorly understood.

Snakes in the Heather is an exciting and ambitious project led by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) which aims to conserve the smooth snake throughout its range in Southern England. The project will advance our knowledge of the species and better coordinate conservation efforts that are essential for its long-term survival. We will work in partnership with a wide variety of wildlife conservation organisations, site managers, landowners and individuals to protect this rare and elusive species and the internationally important lowland heathland habitat on which it depends. The project will run for four years until the summer of 2023.

Snakes in the Heather has three aims:

  • To raise public awareness of the conservation needs of our reptile and heathland heritage, helping to promote better understanding that safeguards their future.
  • To promote community relationships, personal wellbeing and life opportunities by providing chances for people to engage as project volunteers, allowing them to gain new skills and knowledge.
  • To develop guidance and technical support to advance the conservation and ecological resilience of the smooth snake and other heathland reptiles.

In order to conserve the smooth snake, we must first know where it lives. To deliver the project aims, ARC will coordinate a systematic reptile survey and monitoring programme, training an army of ‘Reptile Survey Volunteers’ to find  the animals within their heathland home. We will also carry out habitat enhancement activities, instigate evidence-based research, and raise awareness of reptiles within local communities through an education and events programme.

Join In!

Snakes in the Heather is recruiting volunteers for a number of exciting roles. If you are interested in becoming a Citizen Scientist, helping to maintain the heathland habitats on which the smooth snake relies, or supporting us at events please complete an ARC volunteer form, selecting the Snakes in the Heather project as an area of interest.

Learn something new!

Our schools outreach programme covers the science/biology curriculum for all ages, from 5 year olds to university students. These lessons are free pf charge and cover classification, taxonomy, ecology, biology, and more and can be delivered in a number of settings:

- In the classroom: ARC will come to your school and deliver curriculum linked lessons. These lessons will be tailored to fit a double lesson. (Please note, our Education Officer will not bring lives animal to these events.)

- On the heathland: For schools that are adjacent to heathland or have access to transport, ARC's Education Officer is able to deliver lessons on heathland sites, providing the opportunity for students to see the habitats animals live in for themselves.

- At the New Forest Reptile Centre: Our project partners, Forestry England, have kindly allowed us to use the New Forest Reptile Centre. This wonderful site has live examples of our native species and is adjacent to areas of heath. There is also on-site parking and toilets.

If you are interested please complete an Education Enquiry Form.

Book an event!

Whether you are a brownie or a Rotarian, Snakes in the Heather has a programme to fit your needs! ARC are leading an education and engagement programme for all ages. If you are interested in having a guided walk or a presentation about the project for a group that you represent, please email: [email protected]

Survey your site!

If you are a landowner or conservation organisation interested in collaborating to survey reptiles on your land, or if you would like more information about our survey and monitoring programme and how species records will be used, please email: [email protected]

We are extremely thankful for the support of our partners, volunteers and funders who have made Snakes in the Heather a reality.

Snakes in the Heather is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bannister Trust and Love the Forest (New Forest Trust).

Our Snakes in the Heather project partners are: 

Amphibian & Reptile Groups UK

Bournemouth Council for Voluntary Service

Bournemouth Natural Science Society

Bournemouth University

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council

Broadstone Golf Club

Clinton Devon Estates - East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

Devon Reptile & Amphibian Group (DRAG)

Dorset Amphibian & Reptile Network (DARN)

Dorset County Council

Dorset Wildlife Trust

Erica Trust

Forestry England

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Amphibian & Reptile Group (HIWARG)

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Hampshire County Council

Kingston Maurward College

Livability, Holton Lee

Men in Sheds Christchurch

National Trust

Natural England

New Forest National Park Authority

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG)

Sussex Amphibian & Reptile Group (SxARG)

Urban Heaths Partnership

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Wiltshire Amphibian & Reptile Group (WARG)