Adders Deadly 60 Bites


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Adders

Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall tracks down 60 of the world's deadliest animals. Steve is in the New Forest on the trail of the adder.


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On Deadly 60, I've had loads of incredible animal encounters.

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Here's just one of my many favourites.

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This is Deadly 60 Bites.

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-Do you want to pass me the camera, Mark?

-Sure.

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'Today, we're on a wild adventure in the UK,

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'finding deadly animals closer to home

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'and the crew are right behind me.'

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I'll get myself over, guys. Don't worry about me.

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Ever since I was a little kid, I've been obsessed with snakes.

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And I spend a good part of my life travelling around the world,

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catching some of the most venomous ones.

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Touch wood, I've never been bitten by handling one.

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Although I did get hospitalised

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when I stood right on top of a venomous snake and got bitten.

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It wasn't a black mamba.

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It wasn't a king cobra.

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And it wasn't a gaboon viper.

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Although it was in the viper family.

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In fact, it was right here in the heaths of southern England.

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So I've come back here to try and find one.

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I was in my local country park, out walking the dog.

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And...throwing sticks for her.

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And all of a sudden, felt a really sharp pain in my ankle.

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And it turned out to be an adder.

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It's had me incapacitated for the last four days,

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laid up in hospital for three of those.

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And now my leg's going purple.

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I was bitten here.

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Only one fang went in, I think, cos I could only see one spot of blood.

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And then immediately all of this area really swelled up,

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very, very large, very bloated.

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And the swelling spread all the way up my leg. It's pretty ugly.

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I'll have more respect for them in the future, that's for sure.

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Now, I'd be absolutely heartbroken

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if people were scared of snakes because of what happened to me.

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Truth is, I must have stood right on top of that adder

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for it to have bitten me.

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Actually, it's incredibly rare for people to even see them.

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As soon as anyone gets close, they just disappear off into the bushes,

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and their camouflage is amazing.

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That's why they're going to be very difficult to find.

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'This is a perfect location to go looking for adders.

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'The Wildlife Trust has laid down these tin shelters...'

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Oh, rats!

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'and there's plenty of thick undergrowth

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'for them to skitter off into if there's any sign of danger.'

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'Although I was yet to see an adder, under these pieces of tin,

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'I found a whole host of our other native reptiles.'

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Ooh! A bit fiery!

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Now, this is probably Britain's least-known snake.

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It's a smooth snake.

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And the name comes from the exceptional, silky quality

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they have to their scales.

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There's no kind of ridging at all

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as you run your finger down them, like this.

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And this one, to begin with, looked like he wanted to try and bite me.

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But now, I think he's actually

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getting a bit more comfortable in my hands.

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Absolutely gorgeous snake. But no venom whatsoever.

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And not the snake we're looking for.

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So let's put it back.

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Oh, my goodness! Come and have a look at this!

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Put this down...

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Nice and careful.

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Now, this...is a grass snake.

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Starting to go a little bit crazy at the moment.

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But it'll settle down in just a second.

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You can see, one of the first things a grass snake does when it's handled

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is squirt unpleasant, white goo out of its bottom,

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which smells like I can't even begin to describe.

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Now, there's various ways of telling the three British snakes apart.

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The thing to look out for on the grass snake

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is the yellow collar behind the head,

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which will often have another black collar behind it.

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And then, if you look at the eyes,

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those are very different to the adder.

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They have a round pupil, as opposed to the slit-shaped one in the adder.

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This is our largest snake.

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In fact, grass snakes

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have been known to get to over a metre and a half in length.

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This one here is just a baby.

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But even so, for small frogs and toads,

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he is a slithering nightmare.

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'So that's two snakes down, just one more to go.

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'But that's the one we're looking for.'

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Stop. Stop, stop, stop.

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Here's an adder.

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OK, let's try and get him out into the open.

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There.

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That...is Britain's only venomous snake - the adder.

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Now, I have to say, this is absolutely not something

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that I would encourage people back home to do.

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The adder is a protected snake,

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and we're only doing this because we're on Wildlife Trust land,

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and dealing with people

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who really know how this snake needs to be protected,

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and needs to be cared for.

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Cos in all honesty...

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this snake is in far more danger from people...

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than we are from it. That said,

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the adder is an extraordinary predator.

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It has really quite toxic venom, for a snake of this size.

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It has a very, very fast strike.

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And as you've seen from how difficult it has been

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for us to actually find one...

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AMAZING camouflage. Absolutely extraordinary.

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One part of the adder that does stand out,

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and I'm not sure if Mark can get close enough to get a shot of this,

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is the eye. The eyeball is what lets you know

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that this really is a viper.

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It's bright red, with a slit-shaped pupil.

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I have to say, even a snake enthusiast like me

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looks at that and thinks that this snake does look a bit evil,

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when you get up close to it.

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And listen to that hiss.

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This is the threat that's used by pretty much all of the reptiles,

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from the crocodiles through the tiniest to the biggest of snakes.

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He's just forcing air out through his lungs,

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making a sound which you could never mistake for anything other

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than a way of telling you to go away.

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This is the first time I've caught an adder, despite having pretty much

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grown up surrounded by them on the Surrey Heaths.

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But this is the first opportunity I've had to be able to catch one.

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And I have to say, I will treasure this for ever.

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What a magnificent creature.

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The adder is the only venomous snake in the British Isles.

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Perfectly camouflaged,

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with a lightning strike,

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it makes it a truly awesome predator,

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and worthy of a place on my list.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

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