In 2019 the most comprehensive survey ever of adders was published. According to 'Make the Adder Count' the species will disappear from most of Britain in the next 15-20 years unless we take action now to save it. But despite being a priority conservation species under the Biodiversity Action Plan, not a single nature reserve in Britain has been specifically designated to protect it. Throughout our history, we have systematically persecuted the adder over generations because it is Britain's only venomous snake. Now the adder population is in dire straits, its rapidly declining numbers occurring on increasingly small, isolated and fragmented sites. Ninety per cent of the sites where it still occurs have 10 or fewer adult snakes and are now considered to be very vulnerable to local extinction.
Despite the adder population being in dire straits, it is still not too late to save it if we act now. The Secret Life of the Adder contains a 10-point adder action plan which, if implemented, could help to restore the adder to its former range across Britain. Using many unique photographs of the species published for the first time, it also contains a history of the adder and reveals its secret life which has made it the most successful snake in the world. With a foreword by Iolo Williams, the BBC Springwatch presenter, this book is a story of our times, one which typifies the age of extinction through which we are all living and are all responsible.
Introduction: The Vanishing Viper 12
Chapter 1. The Adder Through History 15
Chapter 2. The Decline of the Adder 39
Chapter 3. The Ecology of the Adder 50
Chapter 4. The Threats to the Adder 99
Chapter 5. Conserving Adders 137
Nicholas Milton is a conservationist, herpetologist, historian and journalist. He has worked for The BBC Natural History Unit, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace. An adder fan from childhood, he has written extensively about its plight for the Guardian newspaper. His first book Neville Chamberlain's Legacy: Hitler, Munich and the Path to War was published by Pen and Sword in 2019.
"[...] The Secret Life of the Adder is very readable and richly illustrated with some excellent photographs, which, coupled with box features exploring specific sub-topics, will help the book appeal to a broad range of readers. The behaviour shown in Roger McPhail’s photographs, including the rarely seen activities of feeding and birth, is remarkable and must have required great patience to capture. [...] This is a book with a strong message that finishes in a brave way by suggesting an action plan. [...] This is a great book and should be regarded as essential reading for general naturalists, land-managers, and those interested in reptiles. Let us hope that it marks a turning point in the fortunes of this beautiful little snake."
– Howard Inns, British Wildlife 34(2), November 2022