Encounter with a slow worm

In the UK, people don’t always think of reptiles when thinking of animals they might see on a walk. In the last decade I have been living on land beside a large area owned by the army and while they are using it at times the rest of the time it is free to be used by anyone. This land apart, from large blocks of woodland, is mostly sandy scrubs with bracken and other plants of similar nature growing on it, as such this is the perfect habitat for reptiles.

Indeed there is a bit laid aside that is a nature reserve, which boasts a picture of lizards on the sign that talks about the reserve, however we have never managed to see lizards and I have never met anyone who has.

We have however been lucky enough to see both grass snakes and adders within this relatively small area. On a walk yesterday we encountered a slow worm which is a very interesting animal. In body size it looks like a smooth worm, perhaps a bit fatter than a worm but not significantly. Certainly it would be hard to confuse a slow worm with a snake, their body in and head resemble lizards even if they can on almost all occasions be longer than any lizards you would get in this country.

This one was the particularly long length and I would be surprised if we had measured it that it would have been less than 50cm.

Perhaps because of how a few there are it seems that reptiles are out of place in the UK and as such it is rather treat when you encounter one. Almost all reptile species population have collapsed over the last 50 to 100 years due to much of their favoured habitat having been taken for building on and what little is left having been split up by roads.

For some of these animals such as the sand lizard there is a significant effort to improve the situation going on at the moment. The sand lizard wild population was reduced to just a reserve in southern England called Thursley common as well as a number of small areas in other parts of the country. Marwell Zoo near Winchester has started to reintroduce them to many places and now there are a far large number of different populations around the south of England. There still are nowhere near as many populations as would naturally occur and many of these are small therefore one needs to be careful when walking to not allow your dogs to eat lizards. Cats are the biggest threat and at the very least if you put a bell around a cat’s neck you will give the animals being hunted a fighting chance.

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