New Forest Reptiles
The New Forest is a fantastic day out for all the family; the beautiful National Park is packed full of things to do when you visit. The vast woodlands, expansive heathlands and beautiful coastlines are also home to some fantastic New Forest wildlife.
The New Forest is home to all six native reptile species found in the UK. You may be lucky enough to spot reptiles during a walk through the woodlands or heathlands or if you visit one of the wildlife centres in the New Forest. Read on to discover more about our native reptiles:
You can spot adders by their distinctive zigzag patterns that run the length of the body. The zigzag pattern is typically a dark grey which covers a light brown body. They can also be known as the common viper.
The best place to find an adder is any area of open heath, along the pathways and tracks throughout the forest on a sunny day where they will be basking in the sunshine, but not too far away from cover.
Although venomous if bitten, most incidents only arise when they are provoked so please don’t touch them and get medical (or veterinary) advice if you are bitten as soon as possible.
Interestingly, unlike many other snake species, adder do not lay eggs, the young are live-born and are about the size and shape of an earthworm. They feed on small rodents, newts and frogs. Adders usually hibernate from late September until March.
The most common snake in Britain is the grass snake. It is also the longest snake species in the UK. A grass snake can be identified by its yellow collar and olive body and black spots/lines space across the back.
They can usually be found by water sources as the grass snake is just as good in water as it is on land. Grass snakes enjoy hiding in dense undergrowth. Look out for them in boggy areas, streams and around the larger ponds, such as Hatchet and Eyeworth Ponds. Grass snakes feed predominantly on amphibians such as frogs and toads although occasionally they will feed on small fish as well.
They are non-venomous and will likely play dead or release an odour if they feel threatened.
A smooth snake can be identified by its grey/brown colouring and are often confused with adders. Its round head and slimmer body differentiate it from the adder.
The smooth snake is very elusive and will rarely be seen. The New Forest’s sandy heathland is one of the few places you can find the smooth snake in the UK. The secretive snake will spend a large proportion of its time hidden away in shallow, sandy burrows.
Smooth snakes feed on rodents and other small mammals, lizards and other snakes. They are non-venomous to humans.
The sand lizard was once almost extinct in the UK, however due to successful breeding programmes and legal protection they are again on the increase.
There are few places that they live, with The New Forest heathlands being one of them, along with sand dunes. You can spot a sand lizard by its broad appearance, its mottled brown bodies and the vibrant green flanks found on the male lizards. They can grow up to 20cm in length.
Sand lizard feed on spiders, grasshoppers and crickets.
It is the UK’s only egg-laying lizard. The New Forest Reptile Centre played an important role in the re-establishment of sand lizards to the National Park.
Slow-worms do not bask in the sun as they are found throughout the damper and more heathy areas of The New Forest. They have bronze, brown or grey shiny skin with a metallic appearance. Slow-worms are often mistaken for snakes but they are actually legless lizards.
They tend to be found in long grass or soft soil, often under a rock or a discarded piece of metal.
Slow worms are a gardener’s friend as they feed on slugs, snails, spiders and other insects.
Common lizards are smaller than sand lizards and are the most commonly seen reptile in The New Forest. They are usually grey-brown to dark brown with some spots and blotches and found in open heath and grassland as well as near water, they are in fact good swimmers.
They usually grow to between 13 and 15cm in length.
Want to know more about some of our reptiles?
The New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst is an excellent base for discovering more about our native reptile species. Come along and see the native reptile species in the various open-air ‘pods’ and learn from wardens and volunteers about the importance of these creatures and the work that is being done to help protect them.
If you fancy going on a guided snake walk then Insight Activities offers the perfect walk for you. Guided by a licensed ecologist, this walk with educate you on the often secretive world of snakes where you can ask all those questions you’ve been dying to know the answers to by a snake expert.
Keep an eye on our what’s on pages for details of other wildlife-related events that are due to take place in the New Forest.
Come and experience ‘A Date With Nature’ at the New Forest Reptile Centre. Using the latest hi-tech gadgets you can look right into the tree-top nests of the New Forest Goshawk and watch their every move – from eggs hatching to food arriving and chicks leaving. Want to find out…