English adders, new study


This is a video about adders in Norway.

From Wildlife Extra:

Adders need corridors through the woods

Wildlife routes through forests could help rare adder

June 2012. A new study is helping the Forestry Commission plan a brighter future for the increasingly rare adder in the North York Moors. The creature is one of the world’s most studied snakes, but mysteries still remain, especially why it is found in some areas, but not others. Reptile expert James Stroud, 25, pulled on his walking boots and set out to shed light on the subject.

Adders are thought to be on the decline due to habitat loss, but the Forestry Commission’s North Yorkshire woods are a stronghold. Working with forest rangers he delved into the creature’s secret world in Dalby and Langdale Forests, near Pickering, and Harwood Dale, Wykeham and Broxa Forests, near Scarborough.

Causes

As part of his Master’s Degree at the University of Hull’s Scarborough Campus, James probed why the snake preferred some areas over others. He looked at factors like the availability of food like small mammals and the age of trees. He also investigated the threat posed by predators like birds of prey and crows by deploying 250 plastercine [sic; plasticine] adders – some of which showed signs of being attacked.

Food less important than predators

What he found was that young conifer plantations were adder hotspots and surprisingly the abundance of food seemed less important than the threat from potential foes in determining whether the creature frequented a forest haunt. But he also concluded that linking together adder breeding colonies with snake friendly corridors could give the species a big boost.

James Stroud, originally from Amersham, in Buckinghamshire, said: “Young forest plantations are an important refuge, offering a place to bask and with shelter from potential predators. My data suggests that linking together such areas could be a real help to adder populations. That would allow them to spread more easily and not become isolated by denser forestry, which is not such a good snake habitat. There is something intriguing and unknown about snakes. Very encouragingly, I found that there are quite a lot in local forests, but you need to know where to look.”

Before stomping through local forests, James did two years of reptile fieldwork in the forests of Sulawesi, Indonesia. He has also worked with the London Zoological Society on breeding programs for endangered reptiles and helped in the first recorded breeding of Komodo dragons through parthenogenesis – a natural phenomenon where eggs are self-fertilised by the female.

Wildlife corridors

Brian Walker, Wildlife Officer with the Forestry Commission, added. “James’ work is really important – it reinforces the value of creating wildlife corridors throughout the forest, not just for snakes, but other animals too. Adder colonies are particularly vulnerable to becoming fragmented, which is bad news. They are cold blooded and need to sun bathe to keep up their body temperature. That means they may find it hard to travel long distances under denser forest canopies which block out the sun’s warming rays.”

Forestry Commission design plans could be tailored to create adder “corridors” in woods where possible – breeding sites are already plotted on a hi-tech mapping systems. The University of Hull also want to do more research. Projects could include could DNA testing of adder colonies to discover whether they intermix. Dr Phil Wheeler, Head of the Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences at the University, supervised James’ research. He added:

“James’ work has increased our understanding of adders. An important output from his study was a set of reliable methods for studying the snake – there is currently no standard approach and that makes identifying trends in their populations very difficult. There are many things we still don’t know about this elusive yet utterly fascinating creature.”

5 thoughts on “English adders, new study

  1. Faith in God snake handling pastor dies after bite

    8:36 AM Friday Jun 1, 2012

    A West Virginia preacher who followed his father into the rare practice of handling snakes to prove faith in God died after being bitten during an outdoor service involving the reptiles.

    Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford, 44, whose own father died in 1983 after suffering a fatal bite had been bitten before and survived. But he died earlier this week after witnesses say a timber rattler bit him on the thigh. Wolford’s sister and a freelance photographer told media outlets it happened during a Sunday service at Panther State Forest.

    Lauren Pond, a freelance photojournalist from Washington, D.C., didn’t immediately return messages Thursday but told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph she was among 25 people at the service. She saw Wolford bitten but said congregants were unfazed.

    “I don’t think anyone necessarily expected it,” she told the newspaper, “but they’ve dealt with it before so it’s not such a huge shock, maybe.”

    Bluefield Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Becky Ritter said Thursday that Wolford was a patient and died Monday, but that federal privacy laws prevented her from releasing additional information.

    Officials at the Cravens-Shires Funeral Home also declined to answer questions, saying the family had asked that the cause of death be withheld.

    Several relatives did not answer email and telephone messages.

    The state medical examiner’s office referred questions to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which didn’t immediately respond.

    Born in Pike County, Kentucky, Wolford had lived in the Bramwell area for the past five years and was a pastor at Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka. Unlike many Pentecostal preachers, he embraced publicity, welcoming journalists and photographers, and even taking some on snake hunts as he tried to revive interest in his religion.

    Ralph Hood, a religion professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, saw Wolford bitten by a copperhead about six years ago.

    Wolford and others prefer to be called “serpent handlers” as a reflection of Scripture, and Hood said his friend would want people to remember him as “a Christian who was living his beliefs and being obedient.”

    “Serpent-handling was only a small part of that,” he said. “He was trying to revitalize a strong tradition that doesn’t make a distinction between beliefs and practices.”

    “A common misunderstanding is that handlers believe they can’t get bit or it won’t kill them,” Hood added. “What they’ll tell you is, ‘No one will get out of this alive.’ They’ll also tell you it’s not a question of how you live; it’s a question of how you die. … This is how he would have wanted to die.”

    Wolford and his followers have a literal belief in Mark 16:17-18.

    “And these signs will follow those who believe,” the verses say. “In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

    “I know it’s real; it is the power of God,” Wolford told The Washington Post Magazine last year. If he hadn’t started handling snakes after returning to his church, he said, “it’d be the same as denying the power and saying it was not real.”

    Although most Appalachian states have outlawed snake handling, it remains legal but rare in West Virginia.

    Wolford acknowledged that last year, telling the magazine his mother was the only relative who still followed the tradition. Her husband died of a rattlesnake bite at age 39 in 1983.

    -AP

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