During our surveys across the county over the years, we have been struck by the size discrepancies between individual adders in different populations, with those on the Quantock Hills being significantly smaller than those on the Mendip Hills. This is curious because adders are also much rarer on the Quantock Hills, and we have long wondered whether there might be a correlation between their diminutive size and their apparent rarity; we imagine that body weight particularly, might have considerable impacts on such things as survivorship in hibernation, breeding frequency and fecundity. This has been something that we have wanted to investigate further for some time, but have never had the capacity to do so until now!
Recently we were approached by George Wykes who manages a group called ‘Planet Carnivore’ who, in collaboration with UWE, are willing to assess prey preferences, genetic variability and the effects of habitat management on adder populations on both the Mendip Hills and the Quantock Hills, in an effort to discover why this discrepancy exists between the populations on each range.
Work will start this month on establishing prey availability for adders on both ranges using lizard counts and small mammal trapping (live trapping obviously, everything will be immediately released where it was caught!).
George is currently looking for volunteers willing to assist with this work. There are survey sites on both the Mendips and the Quantocks so wherever you live there should be opportunities to get involved. Previous survey experience with RAGS would be great, but isn’t essential as training will be given in the field. Out on the hills, social distancing should be fairly easy to maintain and various measures will be implemented to ensure virus safety.