Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN)
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DARN is a network of people in Dorset interested in our native reptiles and amphibians. Its purpose is to promote the conservation, recording and appreciation of native amphibians and reptiles in the county of Dorset. Operating mainly via email and FaceBook, DARN serves as a means of communication between volunteers, professionals and the general public.

Dorset has 12 of the UK's 13 native amphibian and reptile species, and a handful of non-native species. Its internationally-important heathlands are famous as national strongholds for the rare reptiles - Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake - and southwest England's only populations of our second-rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad. With such an important wildlife heritage in Dorset, several wildlife NGOs have their headquarters in the county, including the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC). Together with the various statutory bodies and local authorities, this means Dorset has many wildlife professionals. DARN aims to form a link between all these people, and to nurture an appreciation among the general public for our herpetofaunal friends.

To get on the DARN mailing list, simply email with 'DARN' in the subject header. You will receive regular emails telling you of news, items of interest, and projects to get involved in; and there will be at least one annual meeting. Dorset is home to some of the most important reptile and amphibian populations in the country, with a high concentration of protected sites, and a buzz of conservation activities and research projects. There are endless opportunities for helping out by volunteering, and there are already many volunteers in the county who give their time towards projects helping to conserve our herpetofauna, and raise awareness.

We encourage people to take part in reptile and amphibian survey projects like 'NARRS' and 'Make the Adder Count' coordinated by ARC, as well as rare reptile monitoring on sites that are short of voluntary surveyors. We help train people where necessary. There are also numerous opportunities for taking part in conservation tasks across the county (usually winter habitat management), on nature reserves managed by ARC, local authorities, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, RSPB, National Trust and other landowners. DARN aims to provide a link between these bodies and all the keen volunteers that are out there. If you want to offer your services, or you need volunteers for your herp-related projects, then get in touch!



Adders in crisis, declare experts

Posted on Monday 21st November, 2011


Adders in crisis, declare experts

Issued by: Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group

Monday 21 November 2011

For immediate release

The adder, Britain’s only venomous snake, is in crisis. This is the conclusion drawn by a group of reptile experts and conservationists who attended a conference on the latest research on adders, including reports about its status in this country.

The meeting at Greenwich University in Chatham, Kent, on Saturday 19 November painted a bleak picture of the snake’s likely future. Adder numbers are thought to be falling, and at the end of the conference the more than a hundred participants unanimously passed a motion stating that the adder is in more urgent need of new conservation efforts than any other reptile or amphibian species in Britain.

Said Gail Austen-Price of the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group which arranged the conference: “There is a regional meeting of amphibian and reptile groups in London and the South East every year, but this year we decided to hold a meeting about adders because our own experience suggested that their conservation is a matter of concern. We were proved right. This conference has set a milestone by announcing that the adder’s plight is reaching a critical point, and now is the time for government bodies and conservation organisations to take note.”

Reptile ecologist Dr Chris Gleed-Owen, who chaired the final session, explained: “Adders are widespread but numbers are dwindling and the snake is now extinct in some counties such as Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire. In many areas remaining adder populations have become very small because of habitat loss, and are very vulnerable to inbreeding as well as any further damage to habitat.

“Some people still persecute adders even though they are protected by law and only bite humans in self-defence when they can’t escape. But the main problem is that adders are often given a low priority in management plans even in nature reserves and protected landscapes. For instance scrub clearance may be carried out to restore chalk grassland without considering whether this may harm hibernating adders.

“Sometimes land managers don’t even know that adders are present, but even when they do totally inappropriate actions may be carried out. One site I was studying was cut with a flail killing at least two adders out of a population of 10 adults.”

One of the main threats to adders is the accidental destruction of their winter hibernation refuges. Dr Gleed-Owen pointed out that adders often hibernate communally in mammal burrows or under tree roots. Damage to these sites while the snakes are there risks killing an entire population, but even when they are absent may force the snakes to disperse into less suitable habitat.

The meeting was told that ARG UK, the national umbrella organisation for amphibian and reptile groups, now plans to set up a national register of hibernation sites, to alert local authorities and other countryside managers of these crucial locations. It is also setting up a website for a flagship survey project called Make the Adder Count, where volunteers monitor adder numbers at their local sites.

Adders are famous for dancing (true, actually a ritualised wrestling match between males competing for a female) and for swallowing their young (false), but experts admit that they suffer from a poor public image.

“We need a battle plan to raise awareness and appreciation,” Dr Gleed-Owen said. “It would be tragic if this iconic animal, steeped in history, folklore and literature, were to disappear.”

Notes for editors:

The adder (scientific name: Vipera berus) is a small snake, reaching about two feet (60cm) long. It is typically brown or grey, with a distinctive dark zigzag running the entire length of its body from head to tail.

Adders generally live in heathland, moorland, sand dunes, forest edges and other relatively wild places. They tend to avoid human habitation and highly disturbed areas such as arable farmland.

If approached an adder will normally retreat, but if it feels threatened and cornered it will hiss and may strike. The best thing to do is stand well back from a suspected adder, and let it escape unharmed.

Many people mistake other species for adders, especially grass snakes and slow-worms which are common in gardens and allotments. Both are harmless, and neither has the adder’s distinctive zigzag marking along its back.

Adders are venomous (they deliver venom through their teeth to kill prey or defend themselves). Bites are fairly frequent, but they rarely kill humans. The last death in Britain was over 40 years ago.

Loss and fragmentation of adder habitats, and unsympathetic land management are believed to be the causes of much local extinction. Persecution is also a problem, despite the adder being legally protected.

The adder is protected in Britain under Schedule 5 (Section 9) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which prohibits killing and injury.

Further information:

Please ask for digital photographs, further information, advice or comment from the following:

Dr Chris Gleed-Owen – Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK & the British Herpetological Society - 07846 137346 -

Dr John Baker - Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK - 01986 872016 -

Dr Lee Brady – Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group – 01227 751408 –

Mike Phillips - Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group - – conference organiser

Rick Hodges – Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group –

Exeter ARGUK conference 10th Dec 2011

Posted on Tuesday 18th October, 2011
The programme and booking form are now available for the Southwest England regional ARGUK meeting. This excellent conference will be held in Exeter on Sat 10th December, and the price for registration including lunch is £20 for ARG members/unwaged, or £35 for all others. After last year's success in Somerset, the regional meeting is being hosted this year by Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group.

Details from and below:



09.15-09.45 Arrival, registration, refreshments



from DRAG Chair Nicky Green


Regional Roundup:

a ten minute summary of each ARG’s activities this year



to include: -

Vicky Buller: Surveying for reptiles using refugia; an evaluation of current survey standards and advice

Alex Sams: Troubling Identities - Initial evidence for a successful translocation of the Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Jon Cranfield: Making the adder count in South West England


Lunchtime seminar

- Introduction: ‘Raising the profile of reptiles in the South West’ facilitated by Jon Cranfield.



(provided) and photo competition, herp quiz, stalls and raffle


Seminar discussion

: ‘Raising the profile of reptiles in the South West’



to include: -

Nicky Green & Julia Clark: Devon’s great crested newts - efforts to conserve an elusive population

David Orchard: The Million Ponds project: lessons from the first three years

16.00 Close and Depart

Posters and vendors

Scientific posters with a herpetological theme are welcome. Vendors who would like to attend are asked to please get in touch in advance to make arrangements. Please contact Ellie Knott, tel: 01392 274128 (daytimes) or 01392 679222 (evenings) or

Conference places cost £20 per person for ARG members or unwaged, £35 otherwise. Price includes lunch and refreshments.

Delegates MUST book and pay in advance.

Venue Details

Coaver Club, County Hall, Matford Lane, Exeter, Devon County Council, EX2 4PS

Tel: 01392 382519


Car parking available. To reduce the event’s carbon footprint, please car share where possible.

Bus routes R, S, K, T, H and PR6 stop near County Hall – please check bus times before travel.


The nearest Exeter train stations are 1mile away: St Thomas to north and Central to northwest

Supported by:


Saturday 10th December 2011, 9.15am – 4.00pm

Coaver Club, County Hall, Matford Lane, Exeter, Devon County Council, EX2 4PS

Personal details

Title: First Name: Surname:

Affiliation (if any):

Are you a member of a county ARG?

(If so, which?)





*email addresses and location of attendees will be shared with other attendees for lift sharing purposes. Please indicate of you not wish this information to be shared.

PLEASE WRITE IN BLOCK CAPITALS (make clear if more than one person)

Dietary requirements

Please note any dietary or medical requirements.


To book your place, please return the completed form with payment. Receipts will be issued at the conference on request. Payments will be non-refundable after

25th November 2011


Registration is £20 per person for ARG members or unwaged, or £35 otherwise. Price includes lunch and refreshments.

Cheques should be made payable to the ‘Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group’ and sent, with a completed booking form, to:

Ellie Knott,

(Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group Conference)

3 Attwyll Avenue,




Signature: Date:

Saturday 10

th December 2011

Coaver Club, County Hall, Matford Lane, Exeter, Devon County Council, EX2 4PS

Draft Conference Programme

Skills needed for professional herp surveys

Posted on Tuesday 6th September, 2011

The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) - the body representing many professional ecologists - has just published a set of guidance notes on survey skills requirements. The purpose is to advise wildlife surveyors and other practitioners on the minimum level of skills needed for professional species surveys.

The new notes are called “Competencies for Species Survey" (CSS), and are the result of consultation with practitioners, conservation NGOs and SNCOs. There is one for great crested newts, one for natterjack toads, and one for reptiles. They are being promoted as a benchmark to define the minimum knowledge, skill and experience criteria needed to be a professional wildlife surveyor. The full set is accessible here:

The new CSS Guidance should be of interest to ARG members as it attempts to standardise the competence that practitioners have. It will also be interesting to see how well they are adopted, and whether they end up performing a function in controversial settings such as public enquiries.

Great Success for Sand Lizard Recovery Programme

Posted on Thursday 1st September, 2011

The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) has announced that 2011 is a bumper year for sand lizard recovery. They have managed to introduce/reintroduce sand lizards to seven sites in England and Wales - possibly a record number. Included in this list is at least one Dorset site, right on the edge of Bournemouth in fact.

ARC has released the following news item: http://arc-trust.blogspot?.com/2011/09/rare-sand-lizards-released-back-to-wild.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arc-news+%28ARC+-+latest+news%29

With heavy declines and habitat loss now reversed, the sand lizard is finally recovering in the UK. A concerted effort from ARC, Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, and other partners means that populations are increasing, and the species has returned to nearly all the Vice Counties that it once occupied. The Sand Lizard Recovery Programme is one of the most successful reintroduction programmes anywhere in the world. ARC (formerly the HCT) has overseen 74 reintroductions over the last 40 years, with very few failures. 

New UK Turtle Stranding Code Launched

Posted on Thursday 1st September, 2011

A new Code has been produced for dealing with stranded marine turtles found on UK coastlines. The code is produced by a partnership including the Marine Conservation Society, the statutory agencies, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, and others.

Many marine turtles are stranded on the British coastline each year. UK waters are home to leatherback turtles (the largest turtle species on earth, and the only one able to regulate its own body temperature), but other species occasionally drift into UK waters. These species are not so tolerant of the cool conditions, and often end up stranded in a state of torpor.

Dorset has a long coastline, with long beaches, and plenty of opportunities for stranding. It is always worth keeping your eye out when walking on the coast.

The new Turtle Code advises you what to do if you find a stranded marine turtle, who to report it to, and who to get emergency assistance from.

You can download the Code here:

It is designed to be printed as a wall poster. Please circulate it widely if you can, and post it on walls in relevant places.   

All sightings of turtles stranded on British (and Irish) coastline are submitted to a valuable database coordinated by Rod Penrose of Marine Environmental Monitoring.



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Info & ID guides

Info & ID guides

Herp Identification - downloadable colour charts

Amphibian Identification - downloadable colour cards 

Reptile Identification - downloadable colour cards

Newt Eggs & Larvae - downloadable colour cards 

Dogs & Adders - downloadable advice sheet.   

Improving Herp habitat

Creating Garden Ponds - downloadable booklet   

Herp diseases - recognise & report

Snake Fungal Disease  

Toad fly (Lucilia bufonivora)   

Amphibian Chytridiomycosis  

Ranavirus Disease  

Reptile Slough Genebank - collection & submission of found sloughs  


Useful glossary of terms often used within the herpetological field. (Credit due - unknown)      

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