Watch out for snakes in the grass, warns landowner

Adder bites can be fatal to dogs.
Adder bites can be fatal to dogs.

United Utilities, the water supply company which owns around 26,000 acres in the Forest of Bowland, has issued a warning to anyone exploring the countryside after a man was repeatedly bitten by an adder

The 44-year-old was left seriously ill after he was bitten by the snake, which it is understood he had picked up. Although the incident was not local, United Utilities is taking the opportunity to warn countryside users to be alert to adders, which could be more prevalent this year due to the warmer weather.

The injured man was visiting Dalby Forest, run by the Forestry Commission near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, when he was bitten three times by the adder, having picked it up for a better look. An off-duty paramedic was able to give immediate assistance before a rapid response and trauma team, led by a doctor, arrived at the scene, according to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS)

The man, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was stabilised before he was airlifted to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Land owner United Utilities is now urging visitors to all its sites to be vigilant. A spokesman for the company said: “It’s rare you’ll come into contact with adders, and it’s unusual for them to attack.

“This incident happen over in North Yorkshire, and not near to any of our recreation sites. But it’s timely to ask visitors to be watchful and on the alert.”

The adder is Britain’s only venomous snake but its bite is rarely life-threatening. The last death in the UK was in 1975 when a five-year-old boy was bitten on the ankle in the Trossachs, in Scotland. Research published after this incident showed there had been 14 deaths from adder bites in the previous 100 years.

Researchers found only one death between 1950 and 1972 in England and Wales and pointed out that there were 61 deaths from bee or wasp stings in the same period.

According to NHS advice, adder bite symptoms include swelling, vomiting, nausea and dizziness and, in most cases, the only treatment required is observation in hospital. More severe bites are treated with anti-venom.

Children bitten by an adder will usually make a full recovery in about one to three weeks but adults usually require more than three weeks to recover fully. Some adults can take up to nine months.

About 100 adder bites are reported in the UK each year, with most between February and October. The snake, which grows to up to about 30 inches long, is common throughout mainland Britain.

Last month, dog-owners were urged to stay vigilant after a much-loved family pet nearly died when it was bitten on the snout by an adder. Veterinary charity the PDSA urged dog-owners to be aware of snakes in grassland and woods.