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How to give our reptiles a helping hand


The recent State of the Nature report produced by more than 60 organisations, including wildlife conservation groups, government agencies, and academics, painted a bleak picture of the biodiversity of the United Kingdom. It reports that an alarming number of mammals, plants, birds, insects, and amphibians are assessed as threatened and encourages schemes and programmes to redress the loss in biodiversity. However, one group of animals that are often overlooked possibly because they are rarely encountered, and a certain amount of misunderstanding, are reptiles.


Snakes and adders

There are six species of terrestrial reptile species found naturally in the UK: three lizards and three snakes. Two of the lizards, the Common lizard (concurring with its name) and the Slow-worm (not concurring with its name) and the Adder (the only venomous one) have a substantial range within Britain, whereas the other two snakes, the Grass and Smooth, and the Sand lizard are limited to parts of England, Although I swear I saw a Smooth snake in the east of Scotland a couple of years ago…

As part of the upcoming Reptile Awareness Day on the 21st of October, here is how you can help provide shelter and hibernation spots for any reptiles that you may have in your grounds or gardens.


Sleeping beauties

‘Hibernacula’ are places where reptiles (and amphibians) can shelter during the colder months. They are best located in areas of your garden that won’t be disturbed in the winter. A good site is one where you may have already observed reptiles near some shrubs in a quiet corner with access to a grassy area. The hibernacula are created by digging a hole about 50cm deep and 1.5m across, then filling in with logs, stones, and/or bricks. Insert some pipes on either side of the hibernaculum at ground level to allow access. Cover the pile with a piece of landscape fabric (Terram, etc) and then create a loose heap of soil on top, which you can turf or seed with grass seeds on top but avoid compacting the mound. Also, take care not to block the entrance pipes with soil.

These are excellent for overwintering reptiles and, if you have the room, place a pile of stones or some big flat stones nearby that gets the sun first thing in the morning during spring and summer. You will have provided a year-round habitat that will benefit any reptiles that frequent your garden or grounds.


Find more about how to help reptiles