An adder is a species of snake. She likes to live where it is quite warm during the day and rather cold at night. In return, she can do something that very few snakes can: The female incubates the eggs in her body and then gives birth to “ready” young animals. Adders are poisonous and we have them too.
Adders living in Europe and Asia, but more in the northern areas. Most females are just under a meter long, the males are even shorter. They usually weigh around 100 to 200 grams, i.e. as heavy as one or two bars of chocolate.
Adders can be recognized by the zigzag pattern on their backs. It is darker than the rest of the body. But there are also special adders that are black, for example, the hell viper. But it also belongs to the cross-adders.
Adders belong to the viper family. “Otter” is an old name for “Viper”. One should not confuse them with the real otters, for example with the otters. They belong to the martens and are therefore mammals.
How do adders live?
Adders wake up from hibernation between February and April. They then lie in the sun for a long time because they cannot warm up their bodies themselves. They lie in wait to feed themselves. They only bite their prey briefly and inject the poison through their teeth. The prey can then only flee slowly until it collapses dead. The adder then devours it, usually head first. Adders are not picky. They eat small mammals like mice, lizards, and frogs.
In the spring, the adders want to multiply. Sometimes many males fight over a female. After mating, 5 to 15 eggs develop in the mother snake’s abdomen. They only have strong skin as a shell. To be warm enough, they develop in the warmth of the womb. They then pierce the egg membrane and immediately hatch out of the mother’s body. They are then about the size of a pencil. Shortly thereafter they molt, i.e. they slip out of their skin because it has become too small. Then they go hunting. They have to be three to four years old before they can reproduce themselves.
Are adders endangered?
Adders have natural enemies: badgers, foxes, wild boars, hedgehogs, and domestic cats are among them. But also storks, cranes, herons, buzzards, and various eagles are part of it, even the domestic fowl. Grass snakes also like to eat young adders. But this also happens the other way around.
Worse is the disappearance of adders’ natural habitats: they find fewer and fewer places to live. People let the adder’s basking spots be overgrown with bushes or plant forests. Many natural areas need them for agriculture so that the feed animals of the adders can no longer survive. Also, sometimes people will kill an adder out of fear.
That is why adders in our countries are protected by various laws: they must not be molested, caught, or killed. Only that is of little use if habitats are destroyed. In many areas, they are therefore extinct or threatened with extinction.