Latin name: Vipera berus adder

Length: Males up to 60cm, females up to 75cm

Weight: Males 50 - 60gm, females 80 - 100gm

Where: Glen Dochart; Loch Ard Forest

When: Daytime, spring and summer

The knowledge that there might be a poisonous snake lurking in the undergrowth makes some people nervous of walking in adder country. But these beautiful reptiles deserve our respect, rather than our fear. Though their bite is serious and painful only ten people have died from adder bites in the last 100 years.

Like all reptiles they are cold-blooded. They need the warmth of the sun to give them the energy to hunt and move. So the best time to spot an adder is on a sunny spring morning when they come out to bask in warm, sheltered spots. Woodland banks, heathery moorland and boggy hummocks are good places to try. The clear, zig-zag pattern along their backs warns away potential predators, and helps us tell them apart from the harmless grass snake (though you are unlikely to see a grass snake in Scotland).

Adders are only active once the temperature climbs above 9C, so in Scotland they only come out of hibernation for a short season between about April and October. During this time they need to shed their old skin, mate, and find enough food to keep them alive until the following spring. Their diet consists mainly of small rodents and lizards, which they kill with their venom before swallowing whole. Surprisingly an average adder only needs the equivalent of nine voles a year to survive. Once the temperature dips again in autumn they head back to their hibernation sites, following the scent trails of other adders, with whom they will share their winter bed.

Find out more at:

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods