Snakes alive! Invasion of the pond raiders

PUBLISHED: 00:26 11 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:54 15 June 2010

Grass snake. Picture: Barrie Draper

Grass snake. Picture: Barrie Draper

IN a week that saw the Midweek Herald receive over 50 calls from pond owners who had seen grass snakes take fish, another caller had a warning for anybody thinking of seeking revenge. It is illegal for anyone to knowingly harm or kill any of Britain's sn

IN a week that saw the Midweek Herald receive over 50 calls from pond owners who had seen grass snakes take fish, another caller had a warning for anybody thinking of seeking revenge."It is illegal for anyone to knowingly harm or kill any of Britain's snakes, including grass snakes," said Jonathan Page, of Honiton.He was horrified to read in a recent issue of the Herald that a grass snake had been killed and says he is going to report the matter to the RSPCA.Hundreds of fish have disappeared from garden ponds across East Devon in the past month.After initial speculation that minks could be to blame, eyewitness accounts and even photographs seem to confirm that the culprit is, in fact, the humble grass snake.Barbara Turner, of Raymonds Hill, near Axminster, had just finished reading the Herald last Wednesday when she spotted a grass snake take a goldfish from her pond and swallow it whole.She called the Herald immediately and then dashed out into the garden to take a picture for us."Its body is so distended, with the fish inside," she said.Although shocked at the sight, she revealed: "I had to take the photograph, because my family would never believe me."After gorging the fish into its mouth, the grass snake disappeared - back into Mrs Turner's pond."We've only got a little pond," she said, "but have been losing fish over the past month."Mr Page said: "All people with garden ponds are doing is providing a lovely meal for a wild animal."Grass snakes are harmless and have every right to be in people's gardens. They need protection."People should be proud of the fact that they've got grass snakes in their gardens." A GRASS snake is not thought to be to blame for the recent disappearance of a 10lb mirror carp from a pond at Smallridge.A few days after the fish disappeared, a dead otter was found nearby.GRASS snakes can occasionally grow up to 200cm in length and are typically grey-green in colour, often with black spots and a yellow, cream and orange collar. Their forked tongues are blue-black.Tadpoles, fish, newts and, as Barrie Draper, of Axminster, shows in his photograph above, frogs form the grass snake's staple diet. They occasionally feed on mice and small birds.Typically active in the day, they are good swimmers and can survive under water for up to an hour.When threatened, the grass snake puffs up its body and hisses loudly. If contact is made, they emit a foul-smelling liquid from their anal glands. They occasionally roll over onto their backs and play dead. They can remain very still, with their tongues hanging out, for up to 15 minutes.Grass snakes are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.


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