Tuesday, 5 June 2012

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. 

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 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." 

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