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Always look on the bright side (Warning: graphic photos)

We spend our time and effort trying to conserve Jersey's grass snake and slow-worm populations, but sometimes we are presented with specimens which have come to the end of their life. This may be due to natural causes such as predation, or due to conflict with people, often in the form of road-kill.

A dead grass snake found during surveys; predated by a cat or polecat. Photo: © Rob Ward

As sad as it may be, some of these losses are unavoidable. However with such a small snake population remaining in Jersey, every individual lost is likely to have an impact on the overall population. By being aware of wildlife on our roads we can reduce the number of snakes and other animals that are killed or injured each year by keeping an eye out when driving. Efforts can also be made to reduce the impact of our pets by making them more obvious to native wildlife through the use of specially designed collars for cats and so on (see http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/cats/collarthatcat.aspx).

Note: collar designs for cats are primarily designed to reduce bird kills, and are unlikely to be as effective in reducing reptile predation.

A grass snake killed on the roads of Jersey. Photo: © Rob Ward

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but these animals are still of interest to us. If you do come across a sick, injured or dead grass snake or slow-worm then please do let us know. Even when dead these animals can contribute to our research and to the conservation of the population by providing us with DNA samples for genetic work, and to allow for investigations in to the causes of death. In some circumstances we are even able to see what they have recently eaten - giving us further insight in to their diet.

Palmate newt found in the digestive tract of a dead grass snake. Photo: © Rob Ward

Of course all native animals have their place in the ecosystem and play a key role in the food web. Predators of reptiles in Jersey are likely to include domestic and feral cats, non-native polecats/ferrets, birds of prey such as Marsh harriers, non-native pheasants, and other birds such as corvids and herons. In turn, grass snakes are predators of amphibians, fish, and occasionally small mammals and hatchling birds. Slow-worms prefer slightly softer prey, specialising in feeding upon slugs and snails (so good to have in your garden or allotment).

Marsh harrier carrying a green lizard in its talons - Image source unknown

To report grass snakes and slow-worms, alive or dead, please click here or call us on 01534 441628 and we will come and investigate. For dead individuals, we will collect the carcasses and use them for further study. We are particularly interested in any observations of animals being predated.

Links of interest:

Grass snakes and slow-worms are both protected in Jersey under the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000, and so it is illegal to knowingly kill, injure or take them. The same law prevents them from being kept (except under licence), or sold.

Think Grass Snake representatives are licenced to keep remains of grass snakes and slow-worms for research and conservation purposes and are thus able to collect dead specimens.