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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on July 19, 2002 at 09:17:53:
MIDLANDS EXPRESS & STAR (Wolverhampton, UK) 18 July 02 Stay calm call as sightings of snakes rise (Peter Carroll)
The recent hot weather has led to an increase in snake sightings in Midland gardens, according to the RSPCA.
But snake populations in the Wyre Forest remain low, with adder levels a particular cause for concern.
The RSPCA said its regional call centre in Shropshire was receiving inquiries on a daily basis from people who had seen reptiles.
Snakes are at their liveliest at this time of year and many venture into gardens in search of food, such as frogs, toads or fish from ponds.
They can often get stuck in netting used to cover ponds, fruit or vegetables and gardeners have been warned to take care when checking netting.
The organisation is urging people not to panic if they spot a snake.
RSPCA wildlife head Rob Atkinson said: "If someone finds a snake they should stay calm and not touch it. There is no need to be scared because if left alone, they will go away.
"They should be more frightened of humans than we are of them."
Adder expert Sylvia Sheldon, who lives in the Wyre Forest, said levels were down to a few dozen in the forest.
"They have been going down and down in recent years and we don't really know why. There is only one colony in the forest where numbers are holding up.
"Elsewhere in the forest and at other sites such as Habberley Valley, Kinver Edge and the Malvern Hills, levels are declining."
She added that the venomous snakes were very timid creatures and would only attack if provoked.
In contrast Mrs Sheldon, has been monitoring Wyre Forest's snakes for several years, found 267 adders in 1991.
Adders face danger from predatory birds as well as disease and are often attacked by people who are needlessly frightened of them.