Smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) are to be released back in Devon, after an absence of 50 years. Ten smooth snakes will be collected, under license, from several populations in Dorset, and released at one of the RSPB’s heathland nature reserves, under a project organized by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust and the RSPB, with support from Natural England, according to The Mid Devon Star. The smooth snake is the UK’s rarest snake and is today only found on lowland heaths in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. In the past, smooth snakes were much more widespread in southern England but habitat loss led to their disappearance in a wide area of southern England.
According to Nick Moulton of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation:
“Historically, much of the former heathland areas have been lost to many land use pressures and the remaining sites are often fragmented and isolated. The smooth snake is not very mobile and in many cases cannot naturally re-colonise isolated heathland sites. With this re-introduction, all we do is give the animals a helping hand to cross these areas.”