Reptiles in Britain

Here in Britain we have six, maybe seven, native reptiles and a few introduced reptiles. I’ve seen only one of them despite having been a childhood fan of all wildlife. Now that I’m adult my science is mainly about agriculture but this blog turns out to be a place to indulge my wildlife-spotting tendencies. I’m grateful to a fellow WP blogger, Gman’s Galaxy, for giving me an excuse to look up the British Herpetological Society and the Herpetological Conservation Trust.

Which wild reptiles have you seen? I’ve seen a few when abroad but here in my native land, just one. A slow worm on a campsite where I was staying. That was one of the highlights of my holiday.

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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15 Responses to Reptiles in Britain

  1. Carol Hague says:

    I once saw a snake, probably a grass snake, on the footpath near a canal in Somerset – I was surprised to find that although I rather like snakes, my first reaction was “Run away, run away!”. Presumably the African ape we evolved from had good reason to fear snakes and likes to remind us now and then…

    Carol (cat63 on LJ)

    • argylesock says:

      Did you run? You’re probably right that this reaction is ancient, perhaps like arachnophobia.

      Of course we do have the adder here, but I’ve always assumed that I’d recognise that by its diamond markings. Then I’d rename it the Argyle Sock Snake.

      Anyway i suppose it would be unlawful to pick up a grass snake. I did pick up the slow worm that I found, and used the chance to tell some nearby children that this was a lovely creature and not a disgusting slimy one. But later I learned that I shouldn’t have touched this protected species.

      • Carol Hague says:

        I didn’t run – the reaction was strong, but brief. I was on my bike at the time though and I did brake hard to avoid running it over! Once I’d got over the initial shock, I was happy to watch it slither across the path and disappear into the grass.

        Yes, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an adder, but it could possibly have been a smooth snake, though I doubt it, given their rarity.

        If Wikipedia is to be believed, it is unlawful to harm or trade a grass snake but not to catch them and keep them in captivity, which seems most odd to me. I’d have thought you’d need a licence of some sort to do that.

  2. argylesock says:

    Yes that sounds like a loophole in the law, large enough for a snake to get through 😉

  3. sharechair says:

    Wow … that is really interesting. I live in the Northeast US, and although we have snakes-a-plenty, I’ve actually never come across one. Surprisingly, really, since one of my favorite walks is near a canal.
    But for two brief years I lived in New Orleans, and I was horrified (at first) to see little long-tailed lizards everywhere … on the patio, crawling up the railings, dashing across sidewalks. I’ll admit I never really got used to them. 🙂

    • argylesock says:

      Those lizards sound quite sweet to me! Iirc I saw a similar creature, commonly, when I was in Costa Rica. I find it a little bit sad that you never started liking them. But each to their own.

  4. lowerarchy says:

    I’ve seen grass snakes and slow worms x

  5. Daniel Digby says:

    I hadn’t heard of a slow worm until I read this article. There are relatively few days we don’t see reptiles when we’re outside. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are surprisingly common in east Tennessee, and we saw a water moccasin in our favorite park on the north end of town. One of my favorite local lizards is the broadhead skink. When we visit the Everglades, we never fail to see alligators and crocodiles. Turtles and tortoises are everywhere, including our back yard. Chameleons and iguanas don’t really count since most of them are invasive species along with Burmese pythons. We have entire books dedicated to identifying our reptiles. It’s a lot like birdwatching. By the way, on our last vacation we also saw a whiptail lizard, a subject I’ve written about before ( We also have a plentiful supply of fossil reptiles, although we’re rather short of complete conodonts. Trade?

    Some day I hope to visit Japan, where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are amphibians, and all their frog specie are reptiles (as I assume caecilians are also).

    I understand that St. Patrick was kidnapped and spent several years in England. Perhaps that would explain your dearth of reptiles.

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