The common European adder is a wide spread snake that can be found from Western Europe to Eastern Asia. Adders are the most wide spread of all snakes living on land. You can meet it at sea level up to 3000 meters heigh. The snake is brown or grey with a zigzag dorsal pattern on it’s back. Males are usually grey with a dark pattern, females are brown with a pale pattern.
In the Netherlands, the adder is the only venomous snake. It lives in the east of the country, from Drenthe down to the Meinweg in Limburg. Especially in Drenthe and the Veluwe the adders are wide spread, since there is a lot of heath and peat moor in those areas. Some of the populations do have difficulties to survive, where other populations are doing a lot better. Near Fochteloërveen you can vind a large population of adders. the European adder is found in a variety of habitats, including: chalky downs, rocky hillsides, moors, sandy heaths, meadows, rough commons, edges of woods, sunny glades and clearings, bushy slopes and hedgerows, dumps, coastal dunes, and stone quarries.
Feeding and enemies
A European adder ets six to ten preys a year. Young adders eat insects, worms and lizards. Adults eat mice and lizards, but amphibians, birds, especially nestlings and even eggs are eaten. Smaller prey will be eaten right away. Larger prey try to escape but become paralyzed. The viper will wait for a few minutes and then look up it’s prey. Adders each yeat only start to eat after mating season. Females won’t eat while pregnant.
Birds of prey, predators, even cats and dogs are enemies of the European adder. in the Netherlands the hedgehg is an important enemy. The adder can hardly attack the hedgehog due to the spines. And even when it succeeds to bite one, the hedgehog appears to be immune to the venom. Small mammals like the dormice will attack to protect it’s kids. Pheasants and chickens are known to kill adders.
Though adders are venomous snakes, there are not many human victims. Adders are shy and often move away when a human approaches. They only bite in selfdefence, when stepped upon or touched or approached at a very close distance. In the Netherlands there are 83 known incidents between 1973 and 2005, 15 of which were causing serious symptoms. Since 1800 thirteen people are known to be killed by adders, the last was a tot picking blueberries in 1946. Most of the deadly victims are childern or people who failed to seek medical assistance in time. The symptoms of an adder bite are sickness, swelling, low blood pressure. But not allways the symptoms are serious. But is is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
Below is a small series of photo’s I have taken at the Dwingelderveld.