They were once a feature of the north Cumbrian landscape but forty years ago grass snakes disappeared – and no-one knows why.
The last sighting was in 1974 and now a University of Cumbria zoology student is hoping her work will help trigger memories and could lead work to begin to bring them back.
While families are together over the festive break, third year zoology student Abbie McNally is hoping her work will spark conversations among older generations who may recall seeing a snake and be encouraged to pass on details of where and when. The research will form part of her dissertation focusing on the potential for the reintroduction of the snake into north Cumbria.
“The wetland restoration programme has seen areas like Glasson Moss, Wedholme Flow and Bowness Common brought back to the kind of condition where grass snakes would be expected to thrive,” Abbie says. “What I’m hoping is that people who remember them will tell me where and when they recall sightings.”
A survey (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LCBBMXZ) has been set up and from now until the end of March Abbie will be monitoring results and taking to the countryside herself to determine if a population could be sustained.
”Working with the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre the zoology department at the University of Cumbria is able to offer students the chance to explore and answer questions in conservation,” course leader Dr Roy Armstrong said.”What this project and a Heritage Lottery Funded scheme in south Cumbria aims to restore balance in wildlife systems.”
Pictured: Grass snakes at Hay Bridge in South Cumbria (photos courtesy of
David Pollard and Graeme Skinner from Naturally Wild.