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The Camden Creature

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: Alien & Naturalised species of the UK
Forum Name: Aliens
Forum Description: Concerning non-native species that should be removed from the wild
URL: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2068
Printed Date: 19 Jul 2018 at 6:42pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 - http://www.webwizforums.com


Topic: The Camden Creature
Posted By: Deano
Subject: The Camden Creature
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2007 at 5:37am

Hi All

 

Here∆s a little story you may (or may not) find interesting.

 

 About 7-8 years ago I was working in Camden Town, right next to the canal. And some lunchtimes I would have a stroll along the canal towpath that went past London Zoo. On this particular day the temp was about 23-24oC  and some of the footpath was being replaced. As my friend and I strolled along, I suddenly noticed a snake head appear from under a cracked slab. I didn∆t immediately recognise the species other than it wasn∆t a grass snake or adder.  I picked it up and it was at about a metre long. I took it along to the study/teaching centre that was on that side of the canal (opposite side to ZSL),  thinking maybe one of their charges might have escaped. The man who answered the door protested that they hadn∆t lost anything and that there were snakes all along the canal bank and they lived in the burrows and ate the rats and said I should let it go. Okay if he was sure. And down a hole it went.

 

Now, I have just come across a picture that reminded me of that snake. It was a bit more grey but I think it was an Aesculapian Snake. What do you think guys an gals? Are they living and breeding on the Regents Canal?



-------------
Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.



Replies:
Posted By: Deano
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2007 at 6:05am

Thanks for that David,

I wonder if they originated from 'Palmers Pets' that used to be in Parkway. I remember going in there as a kid, on my way to London Zoo, and seeing exotic pets like cotton eared marmosets.



-------------
Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.


Posted By: Deano
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2007 at 11:11am
Am I right in thinking the other population is also next to a Zoo. Coincidence?

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Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.


Posted By: Alan Hyde
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2007 at 1:33pm
Funny you know, I've always been surprised that garter snakes have not established themselves in UK. I remember hundreds in pet shops in the late seventies and some must've escaped or been released. They seem very similar to natrix in their habits (Apart from the fact they give birth to live young).




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O-> O+>


Posted By: Jimpklop
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2007 at 1:52pm
I have read this several times and still cant make sense of it, this will probably irritate some people.

But are there two colonies of Elaphe Longissima in the UK? One in Wales one in London?

Sorry

James


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Im Craving Adder's(www.jimpklop.moonfruit.com)


Posted By: Alan Hyde
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2007 at 2:26pm
Hi David, Tony.
The only thing I can think of is, perhaps those garters need a harsher winter in order to procreate? Or maybe the extremely high population found in hibernacula may have something to do with survival.

Tony, a dead BC must've been a sight! The only foriegn species i've ever found was natrix tesselata along the motorway embankment at Shepperton middx and european pond turtle also found in Shepperton swimming in the gravel pits.


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O-> O+>


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 19 Apr 2007 at 2:35am
hi all I think deanos got a good point abouts Palmers pet shop being part of the equasion as it was only walking distants from canal banks . But I have confession to make in the 1950s security at the zoo was so slack no cct unheard of , and  probably one keeper patroling now and then the whole zoo compound . Me and my mate both 12 year olds helped our selves to a green lizard a wall liz and +a baby adder from an outside round enclosure due to the lack of money as we could not afford the 20P for a lac viridis in Palmers pet shop so who knows what was taken and let out? I wonder if they still have this snake pit out side as what we used to call it . keith   ( self confessed reptile felon of the 50s)


Posted By: Deano
Date Posted: 19 Apr 2007 at 11:19am

Hi Keith

No that round encloser (snake pit) is long gone.



-------------
Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 19 Apr 2007 at 2:32pm
Hi deano when did the pit close ?  I must point out the adder was let free near High beech in Epping forest  after I took it to school and showed to all and terrorised a few girls with it , so it ended up a lot better of then living in the pit might be a few decendents still living there.  keith


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 19 Apr 2007 at 4:55pm
innoccent m,lud.........    Dont think I see any Aescu how do you spell it snakes  either only walls greens adders and grass.If you got caught by the authorities today nicking them the punishment would more likly be a  2 month holiday in the West Indies or S Africa, unlike in the 1950s you got a good thrashing and sentenced to ten years in a secure mental institution unless it was a capital offence how I miss them good old Blairite  pc free  days .  keith 


Posted By: Deano
Date Posted: 20 Apr 2007 at 7:05pm
No wonder I could never see anything in that pit. You'd nicked the lot! Kids eh!

-------------
Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.


Posted By: Alan Hyde
Date Posted: 21 Apr 2007 at 2:55am
Originally posted by AGILIS AGILIS wrote:




innoccent m,lud......... ŠŠ Dont think I see any Aescu how do you spell it snakesŠ either only walls greens adders and grass.If you got caught by the authorities today nicking them the punishment would more likly be aŠ 2 month holiday in the West Indies or S Africa, unlike in the 1950s you got a good thrashing and sentenced to ten years in a secure mental institution unless it was a capital offence how I miss them good old BlairiteŠ pc freeŠ days .Š keithŠ


That Post Tickled me Keith, but you're not the only one.
Confession Time

When I was 13 I reguarly visited a pet shop not too far from where I lived.
This particular pet shop was very long and narrow with four rooms , the till being in the first and reptiles in the third.
One very hot day the owner had left a side door open in the reptile room and he was serving out front. I couldn't resist , I put my bicycle clip round the bottom of my jeans opened my flies and put a baby burmese python inside shaking it down my trouser leg. Then out the door and peddled like mad home with a big grin on my face.
I also worked part time at another herp shop and arrived at work in time to hear this phone conversation ,
"No, I don't believe it, you've had a python nicked Frank?"
In those days Pythons were worth big money, my crime also made it into the local rag

"Snakes Alive! Python Stolen From Local Pet Shop"

If you're out there Frank, sorry


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O-> O+>


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 21 Apr 2007 at 3:28am
 hi Al I feel a lot better almost redeemed for getting that of my chest glad to see I am not alone is that why you moved into a priory to make confessions . if you thought my confession tickled you I bet the python tickled a lot more  keith 


Posted By: Alan Hyde
Date Posted: 21 Apr 2007 at 4:24am
See the confession thread for how I fed that snakey

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O-> O+>


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 28 Aug 2007 at 10:27am

Back to the garter snakes - wasnt there a few hundred released from the studios who filmed Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark?

 

J



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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 28 Aug 2007 at 10:27am

I have a report of green lizards along the Thames Estuary - I think after the discovery of Aes snakes in London I may go down there next spring to see if any green lizards are about

 

j



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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: Alex2
Date Posted: 30 Aug 2007 at 5:28pm

Hello all, long time no speak...Great to see the messageboard and it's inhabitants back :) . From reading the Wild About Britain forum recently I'm fairly sure we have one young poster who'll almost certainly wet himself when he see's RAUK is up and running again ;)

R.e Aesculapians, All very interesting. I used to live and work around Regents Park but never realised that this species resided on my doorstep. Wonder what the population density is like given that they've been there some years? 



Posted By: Deano
Date Posted: 31 Aug 2007 at 12:38pm
There was some work being done on a footpath coming down from the main road, when I found my one. I noticed a snakes head peering out from the edge of the unfinished path (paving slabs) and pointed it out to my mate Ron, who proceeded to walk in reverse. As the snake came a little further out I grabbed it and extracted it from its hole. I took it to the study facility ZSL has on that side of the canal. I asked if they had lost a snake.The guy who answered the door, took a step back and exclaimed 'they're all along here. They feed on the rats and rabbits'.
If they have been doing that for 20 years and they're all along the canal embankment, could there be a fairly healthy population.

Sounds like another RAUK Day trip is taking shape. Anyone for next Saturday?


-------------
Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 31 Aug 2007 at 5:15pm
Hello All

Been looking at the snakes over the summer - am hoping to help ZSL with some form of survey work to establish how many / where the snakes are - they're close to various bird enclosures, for example.

Great animals though - I have spent time in France, Spain, Italy etc looking for Aesculapian snakes - ironic that my first wild (OK, feral) ones should be a couple of miles from my work..

Cheers

Will


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 01 Sep 2007 at 11:52am

I am sure new LARG members would like to help out with any further survey work on these

Hopefully the fully fledged ARG will form this year ready for next year's survey season.

 

 

J



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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 01 Sep 2007 at 12:21pm
Nice idea Jon - but any survey would have to be with permission of ZSL, at least within their grounds, of course

Here's another one - 1.5m individual - from earlier in the summer

Cheers

Will


Posted By: Wolfgang Wuster
Date Posted: 03 Sep 2007 at 5:58am
1.5 Metres is a pretty decent size. One thing we noticed in the N. Wales population is that average size is very small compared with natural populations in Germany and Poland. Any hints on average sizes in London?

Cheers,

WW

-------------
Wolfgang W√ľster

School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor

http://pages.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 03 Sep 2007 at 10:22am

Hello Wolfgang

The larger snake's size was estimated when I photographed it crossing a paving slab for scale.  The smaller one was about 75cm but nothing to allow a more accurate guesstimate.

Maybe ZSL have more extensive data which could produce a meaningful average ?

Cheers

Will 



Posted By: will
Date Posted: 17 Sep 2007 at 1:57pm
Another snake from last weekend - basking at the base of a tree, measured approx 130cm when I put my camera case beside it.
Cheers, Will


Posted By: Rupe
Date Posted: 22 Sep 2007 at 6:12am
new member
Made a couple of visits to the area over the past few weeks as well as earlier in the year but alas no sightings.Last visit 15/9/07 met two other very capable and experienced enthusiasts from south of the river with same quest.As i left before them can they contact me on PM of their results.


Posted By: arvensis
Date Posted: 29 Dec 2007 at 12:16pm
When the weather warms up next year, who's up for a return visit?

Mark


Posted By: Alex2
Date Posted: 29 Dec 2007 at 10:06pm

Originally posted by arvensis arvensis wrote:

When the weather warms up next year, who's up for a return visit?

Mark

I am, the Regents Park Rd is my old stomping ground :)

P.s, As i don't post much (at least at the moment anyway), I'd just like to wish all the RAUK forum members a very Happy New Year. Alex.



Posted By: st rick
Date Posted: 30 Dec 2007 at 5:32pm

Mark,

I'm definitely up for a return visit and will be keeping an eye on the site throughout next year, I expect.  I still have no idea of the population density In London.  I was amazed to find a snake within the first 10 minutes on my first visit;  however, the next couple of visits produced nothing, so who knows?

Anyways, I will certainly show you the site.

Happy New Year

Rick



Posted By: will
Date Posted: 02 Jan 2008 at 3:53pm
Hi All, Happy New Year etc

I'd be happy to show people where I saw some last year, but a seasonal message from 'Elf 'n' Safety' regarding needles and trees - and I'm not talking the Xmas conifer variety.   Anyone trying to spot Aesculapians on the banks of the Canal should be aware of a subspecies of human which also uses the banks for narcotics - dirty needles abound, sometimes thoughtfully stuck in trees but sometimes left on the ground - it's no place for a family trip (no pun intended) - it's safer to search within the zoo grounds !

Cheers

Will

PS I wonder when they emerge - any data from the Welsh Mountain Zoo pop ?


Posted By: Deano
Date Posted: 12 Jan 2008 at 6:24pm
Hi All

I'd like to get back and have a look sometime.

I'm guess they would emerge sooner than the WMZ population. London is always that bit warmer.

Let's wait to hear from the experts.


-------------
Deano
Better to be lucky than good looking.


Posted By: frogworlduk
Date Posted: 16 Feb 2008 at 4:43pm
must admit i'm not that familiar with camden apart from the market and walk up where kings reptiles used to be but i would def be up for going for a look when it's warmer. 


Posted By: jhanlon
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2008 at 6:21pm

I'm very interested in going if others are - grateful for a PM ahead of any planned trips.

Anyone know when they are likely to emerge?



Posted By: will
Date Posted: 24 Apr 2010 at 3:28pm
Too hot for natives so I went for a walk along the Regent's Canal in London, and found the first feral Aesculapian snake which I saw three years ago; confirmed by examination of scalation.  I've not seen one before early May before now, but as it was 21degC it was certainly warm enough.  (You can see a photo of the same snake earlier in this thread).

 




Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 24 Apr 2010 at 5:34pm
good pic Will but where was it 21degs keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 24 Apr 2010 at 6:31pm
London microclimate Keith - at least 2 degC warmer than outside the capital - no doubt it helps these Italians that little bit warmer (mind you, the ones in north Wales seem to do OK, too.)


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 20 May 2010 at 6:59pm
This one from today, around 200m from the zoo, and last seen in the zoo grounds in May 2008; they certainly seem to move reasonable distances along the canal.  A bulge in the middle indicated a recent rodent meal.




Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 23 May 2010 at 12:34pm
Now what would people think about any suggestion of
controlling these snakes?

Another bit of diversity in the snake fauna with beneficial
consequences - controlling the local rat or rodent
populations?

Jon





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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 23 May 2010 at 6:07pm
The WMZ population doesn't seem to have done much harm in the decades that it's been there, and the chances of the London Zoo population spreading beyond the vicinity are very low.  In any case, I reckon the population has a low chance of survival, what with threats from inbreeding, possible collection by zoo staff and members of the public (including snake keepers ?) and natural threats.  I can't see them ending up in the same category as grey squirrels, ring-necked parakeets or even wall lizards ...


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 24 May 2010 at 2:51pm
I am venturing over to London in June/July I will have to
have a look out for these snakes

I am certain that some pathogen could be found on them
which may raise the bar....

People are thinking about controlling them....

J

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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 25 May 2010 at 9:23am
Hi David

I have heard that some people (possibly Park authorities)
are thinking of removing the snakes as they are an alien
species

Though as you seem to point out there seems to be no
reason to as there are more pressing matters with other
alien species in the UK.

J





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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 25 May 2010 at 6:18pm
I reckon your average parky will have a job catching them more then likly kill them outrite with a machete or something like that, sad if this happens, as our last govo seemed to like diversity and they have gone    keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 26 May 2010 at 5:37pm
I'm still finding previously unrecorded snakes - here's one from today I'd not seen before (fairly small, 75cm, and like the one from a couple of days ago, with a big Camden mouse bulge in the middle)




Posted By: will
Date Posted: 08 Jun 2010 at 5:21pm
Same one again today - huddled up under a cloudy sky and about 50m from where it was a couple of weeks ago.  Mouse bulge now gone.




Posted By: jloeb
Date Posted: 23 Aug 2010 at 12:28am
Hello.

I am a reporter for the Camden New Journal and am writing
an article about these canalside non-native snake
species. I would love to speak to anyone who has seen
them and I am also interested in the claim that park
authorities might be thinking of removing them.

I heard that someone found a green rat snake in the
vicinity recently. Does anyone know if there is any truth
in this?

Anyone who would like to get in touch can call me on 020
7424 3255 or email josh@camdennewjournal.co.uk


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 26 Aug 2010 at 9:48am
What will people say? shall we keep these lovely animals? they are doing no
harm are they?

J

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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 28 Aug 2010 at 6:57pm
Hi Josh

In my view this population is probably doomed to extinction; it occupies a relatively small part of the Regent's Canal, and probably numbers no more than a few dozen (max) adults (I've found 17 different animals over the last three years).  Egg laying sites are probably a limiting factor, and I imagine that ZSL / London Zoo isn't too keen on them (more because Joe Public is likely to think that if Aesculapian snakes can 'escape' from the Zoo then so could Black Mambas etc, although I've heard it alleged that these snakes were deliberately released rather than escaped). 

Of course we can't stop you from writing something, but if it encourages people to try to catch the snakes and / or kill them, it could tip this vulnerable population over the edge.  If you do write about them, I would urge you to emphasise that they are harmless and they eat rats!   Also that they don't present a threat to native species (at least not in Camden) and that they have survived, unobtrusively, at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay for nearly 40 years.  Finally the banks of the Canal can be dangerous (steep, slippery and with broken glass, dirty needles etc) so not a habitat to encourage people to explore (especially kids)

Will


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 29 Aug 2010 at 12:15pm
think about the only dangerous thing on the canal banks are discarded druggo needles and old condoms,

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 06 Sep 2010 at 6:46pm
If you go to www.islingtontribune.com and put the word 'snake' in the search facility you can see a reasonably balanced article on the Camden Aesculapian snakes (apart from the headline, which I guess is designed to lure the reader into reading on!)  I hope the snakes remain unmolested - fortunately they'll be underground in a few weeks' time..


Posted By: Conners
Date Posted: 09 Mar 2011 at 8:45pm
Originally posted by will will wrote:

If you go to www.islingtontribune.com and
put the word 'snake' in the search facility you can see a
reasonably balanced article on the Camden Aesculapian
snakes (apart from the headline, which I guess is
designed to lure the reader into reading on!)? I hope the
snakes remain unmolested - fortunately they'll be
underground in a few weeks' time..


What a lovely piece that Tribune article is. Makes a
change from the sensationalist nonsense one sees in other
rags.

http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/201
0/sep/feature-camden-creature-amphibian-and-reptile-
trust-says-our-waterways-are
- The Camden Creature


Posted By: Conners
Date Posted: 09 Mar 2011 at 8:47pm
Originally posted by Conners Conners wrote:

Originally posted by will will wrote:

If you go to
www.islingtontribune.com and
put the word 'snake' in the search facility you can see a
reasonably balanced article on the Camden Aesculapian
snakes (apart from the headline, which I guess is
designed to lure the reader into reading on!)? I hope
the
snakes remain unmolested - fortunately they'll be
underground in a few weeks' time..


What a lovely piece that Tribune article is. Makes a
change from the sensationalist nonsense one sees in other
rags.

http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/201
0/sep/feature-camden-creature-amphibian-and-reptile-
trust-says-our-waterways-are
- The Camden Creature


Sorry, link didn't work. Try again:

http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/2010/sep
/feature-camden-creature-amphibian-and-reptile-trust-
says-our-waterways-are


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 12 Apr 2011 at 5:53pm
First one of the year, last week, 23 deg C.  This is three weeks earlier than I've seen them previously; I guess at least one didn't mind the -20 degC winter temps too much...




Posted By: arvensis
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 10:28pm
Nice to hear they're still around Will.  Also nice to see a balanced paper article, compared to the normally biased rubbish.   I'm thinking about taking a trip up to London in the next couple of months to look for them and would appreciate any pointers on how to find them.

Cheers, Mark


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 9:31am
Hi Mark

it's pot luck, really - I reckon to have at best a 50:50 chance assuming weather conditions are right - a narrow temp window of between 19 and 23 degC.  They can be 2m off the ground as well as in all the usual places more typical of our native snakes, and most likely they'll be mosaic-basking doing very little at all.  If you pm me, I'll give you a few specific pointers

Cheers

Will


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 30 Apr 2011 at 5:01pm
I was interested to find the same individual as the one pictured above today, but in the zoo grounds and at least 200m from where he was a couple of weeks ago.  Looks like s/he's also up for a shed, judging from the eye.




Posted By: arvensis
Date Posted: 11 May 2011 at 6:11pm
Tired to send you a PM Will, but your inbox appears to be full.  I'm off to London next Tuesday so hopefully the weather will play ball.

Cheers, Mark


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 11 May 2011 at 7:56pm
judging by your highly enthusiastic and repetitious (no offence intended - great to see!) postings/pix of this alien Will, do i correctly interpret that you hope this species will survive and thrive in the UK -despite your aforementioned odds against establishment?

ben


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 13 May 2011 at 7:58pm
Hi Mark - sorry, can't seem to get into my inbox to delete old pm's - email me at lehartrust@hotmail.com instead

Hi Ben - sorry for  being repetitious, but the coincidence of me working ten mins' drive away and the presence of these fascinating beasts is too much!  given their lack of impact in Colwyn Bay (since the 70's), and the dearth of snakes in Camden apart from these illegal immigrants, I'm quite fond of them, I guess.  I admire the way they've hung on for two decades or more, with 99.9% of people walking straight past them.  It's also possible that they could provide useful info on the conservation of relict (natural) populations at the edge of the species' range, especially with DNA analysis getting easier and cheaper.  So, on balance, in this special case, yes.  But I'm not going to get drawn into the pro's and con's of other species like the wall and green lizards...

Cheers

Will


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 13 May 2011 at 8:43pm
Keep up the reports Will I find them fascinating.

I think very much a special case as there is no real threat of this species extending it's current range in the UK or any obvious threat to native species.

As far as I know this wasn't an intentional introduction, rather a single escapee, amazing that an apparently healthy population exists.





Posted By: will
Date Posted: 14 May 2011 at 9:55am
Thanks Gemma; I couldn't agree more.  I think there may have been several original escapees, rather than the single gravid female which started the WMZ population, so perhaps the Camden ones have slightly less chance of inbreeding effects (but then again, I'm amazed that the WMZ population is still thriving given that they're presumably all as closely related as you can get).  It would be interesting to do a genetic analysis of the Camden animals, but of course this would require a special licence etc. 

One other point about them which I find interesting from an ecological point of view is that they occupy such a different niche from our native snakes (and most other snakes in Europe), occupying quite shaded woodland.  In France for example, where they are native, this lack of competition with other snake species has been documented by various authors.  It makes a change to find a snake 2m up a tree !

Cheers

Will


Posted By: arvensis
Date Posted: 15 May 2011 at 11:53am
Cheers for the reply to the e-mail Will.   I'll be spending a hour or 2 looking for them on Tuesday if the weather plays ball(at the moment it looks iffy).

Mark


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 07 Jun 2011 at 7:00am
message for Wolfgang - you seem to be over the limit on pm's - can you email me at the Trust email - mailto:lehartrust@hotmail.com - lehartrust@hotmail.com and I'll get back to you ASAP please?
 
cheers
 
Will


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 13 Jun 2011 at 4:58pm
Specially for Ben...

managed to get an hour at lunch along the Canal, and saw a equal-top number of four snakes, including 3 which were new to me (ie not recorded before) giving a total of 23 animals to date, since July 2007.  This one was basking in a fairly exposed location with a big mammal bulge inside.  I guess after the horrible weather of the last week, these Italian immigrants were grateful for some warmth at last!

 


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 13 Jun 2011 at 9:23pm
thanks will yet another dazzler.
i wouldnt mind a look at these myself but must admit Colwyn seems more inviting than London - im bigcityphobic.

be interested to see a London habitat pic or two though. have you got any?

cheers, ben


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 14 Jun 2011 at 8:45am
Cheers Ben!

have to admit, I'm no fan of cities myself, and I work in one...  However, I reckon it's precisely because these animals (and native reptiles like slowworms etc) manage to survive in the urban jungle under the noses of millions of neutral/hostile humans which gives urban reptiles and amphibians an extra dimension, in a way.  Anyway, here's a photo of typical habitat - not typical for our natives, with plenty of mature secondary woodland and scrub, but for these arboreal animals they seem to find things tolerable, at least:




Posted By: will
Date Posted: 25 Jun 2011 at 4:36pm
After four years and dozens of visits, I finally spotted a hatchling in the grass today (below a pair basking together in a bush, also from today)

Cheers

Will






Posted By: tim hamlett
Date Posted: 25 Jun 2011 at 5:10pm
wow! great stuff will. you must be chuffed.

if they've managed to successfully breed over the last few cool wet summers then maybe they will survive for a few more generations.

tim


Posted By: arvensis
Date Posted: 25 Jun 2011 at 5:22pm
Good stuff Will, must take a look up there again somewhen and see if I can see any more.   Did you find the one I saw and told you about?

Mark


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 25 Jun 2011 at 6:23pm
Thanks Guys; Tim, I am chuffed - though I've yet to see any interesting behaviour from these enigmatic animals, including any hanky-panky, but I guess it must happen fairly often and the eggs must incubate successfully, as the hatchling shows, even in wet and cold summers as you point out.  Sorry Mark, I thought I'd emailed you about the big one you saw - yes, I saw it too - it was snake number 1 - ie the very first one I saw in 2007, still going strong.  I also saw one today of equal size, c 1.4m, which I hadn't seen since 2008.


Posted By: Noodles
Date Posted: 28 Jun 2011 at 10:48am
Any ideas on where they may be laying Will? I read that they require artificial heat sources to incubate their eggs, much the same way as Natrix and the key reason why they can sustain populations in our climate. 

I'd love to have a look next time i visit my London inlaws. It might help to take my mind off the hectic city bustle.....and the inlaws!  If so could i PM you and get some hotspots?  

Beautiful pictures, are the pair on top of an ornamental hedge?


Posted By: dave fixx
Date Posted: 28 Jun 2011 at 2:32pm
great pic of the two together Will.Fab.



-------------
Dave Williams
davewilliamsphotography.co.uk


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 28 Jun 2011 at 4:34pm
Thanks Dave; never found two actually intertwined before - tempting to think they could be male and female, but aside from one being bigger than the other and possibly with a broader head, I couldn't tell.  Drop us a PM Scale, when you're likely to be around and I'll give you some pointers or possibly meet up.  Reckon eggs are laid in leaf mould along the banks, several of which are in the Zoo grounds, but I've never found any shells to confirm this.


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 29 Jun 2011 at 4:32pm
Another pic of the cuddling couple:




Posted By: Noodles
Date Posted: 30 Jun 2011 at 9:58am
No plans to go as yet, but will let you know.
Thanks very much Will


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 01 Jul 2011 at 9:18am
Hi Will when did you take these pics and what was weather conditions is like also is there access restrictions? Keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 01 Jul 2011 at 9:49am
Hi Keith - it's a bumper year for them - perhaps due to warm spring, followed by rain, followed by more warmth.  Best temps, c21-23degC.  Can be found outside the zoo and within, but I'm sure that plenty are around in restricted areas, too.  In July/August they tend to be harder to spot, maybe because the ambient temp allows means they need to bask less openly, and maybe because they climb into the canopy (not something you have to consider with our natives..)
 
Cheers
 
Will


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 01 Jul 2011 at 2:40pm
Cheers will interesting stuff looks like looking up as well as down, if I didnt hate London so much I would be tempted to do a look. ps I was born there but escaped keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 03 Jul 2011 at 5:09pm
well, from the high of spotting a hatchling last week to the low today - snake number 1 horribly injured by a strimmer (my guess) causing a deep wound along much of the spine - one of the dangers of living in proximity to humans.  At least it seemed to be healing over, and the snake seemed fully mobile (so no spinal damage, I think) - they're resiliant animals, for sure.




Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 04 Jul 2011 at 6:48pm
Will nice clear pic are they on both banks and both sides of the Zoo would I be right in saying the Camden side being better due to the sun. keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 05 Jul 2011 at 6:55am
Hi Keith
I've actually found more on the south bank, which is north facing - exactly the opposite of what you'd expect from a reptile.  I have no idea why, although for a partly arboreal species maybe the aspect of a bank is less important than for a totally ground dwelling species.  Could be more rats on the zoo side, too, although there's plenty of them on the other bank too!


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 05 Jul 2011 at 9:03am
Cheers Will" perhaps they dont like swimming? and as you say must be plenty of rats for food , so they are doing a great job Keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 06 Aug 2011 at 4:52pm
Hi All

back from holiday and decided to pop along to see if any snakes were out and about in spite of not great weather.  I did catch up with the female below - in the upper photo taken a fortnight ago she was gravid, and today (lower) she was thin.  See if you can spot the difference - this sets egg-laying as end of July, which is similar to continental records

Cheers

Will






Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 06 Aug 2011 at 6:12pm
Good pic Will I must get to see them ,but just hate coming to London keith

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 15 Sep 2011 at 5:34pm
We're at the end of the season for Aesculapians now, with temps unlikely to be much above 20deg for many days more.  After several negative visits, I found a snake which I didn't immediately recognise today, around 1m long.  Checking my records, it turns out this was a snake last seen in July 2008, when it was 50cm long.  It was within one metre of where I had seen it more than three years ago...

Number 6, from today, above, and from three years ago, below:








Posted By: JaySteel
Date Posted: 22 Sep 2011 at 8:32pm
Great to see they are still doing well. I'd have liked to have paid them another visit this year but that's looking very unlikely now. I'll be sure to have a go at getting some decent shots of them next year.

Jason


Posted By: dave fixx
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2011 at 5:36pm
forecast is good for next week 20 degrees plus they reckonbetter than the 13 degrees and pouring rain and hailstones I got at Colwyn Bay zoo last week !



-------------
Dave Williams
davewilliamsphotography.co.uk


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 25 Sep 2011 at 3:57pm
Sound advice Dave - it was worth taking a look today in London; two snakes within a few minutes and a few metres of each other, possibly seeking the same part of the canal bank for hibernation.  Strangely enough the snakes were the first one I ever saw (ie code number 1 - which has recovered quite well from the horrible wound sustained from a strimmer or somesuch a couple of months ago), and a brand new snake, code 29.  So I guess they sort of 'bookend' the individuals which I've seen over the past four years.  Could be a few more decent days, if the mini-heatwave forecast keeps up.

Snake 1 top, new snake below:



 


Posted By: dave fixx
Date Posted: 26 Sep 2011 at 2:32pm
Nice one Will,I m always happy to give advice on snakes that I have never seen  ;)  .Thanks for the pics though always find them facinating and great you got both ends of the scales ,so to speak.

Dave


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Dave Williams
davewilliamsphotography.co.uk


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 26 Sep 2011 at 5:33pm
Thanks Dave - weather looks good for the week, could be worth another look - even in Wales...


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 27 Nov 2011 at 9:42am
Now here's an interesting thing...

if you google 'Aesculapian snake London' the first hit you get is for a new spreadsheet on invasive species at the London Biodiversity Partnership website, called LISI - the London Invasive Species Initiative - and, in category 2, 'species of high impact or concern present at specific sites that require attention (control, management, eradication etc)' you have London's Aesculapian snake population.  Along with American mink, Italian crested newt and Azolla (water fern).  I'd love to know who rates these snakes as being right up there with the 'bad guys'...

Surely more appropriate to reduce the population to their Category 5 - 'species for which insufficient data or evidence was available from those present to be able to prioritise' (which includes European pond terrapin, for example)?

Anyway, if anyone acts on this recommendation, things may be bleak for this inoffensive feral population (do I detect an attempt to identify a population which would be easy enough to eradicate, and hence to 'tick a box' rather than attempting to remove those species which genuinely present ecological threats...?)

If it's recommended to remove London's snakes, then presumably the same must apply to those at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, too?


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 27 Nov 2011 at 4:13pm
Funny LISI havent got a list for helping threatened native peoples only animals.lol

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   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: JaySteel
Date Posted: 27 Nov 2011 at 8:46pm
Originally posted by will will wrote:

Now here's an interesting thing...

Anyway, if anyone acts on this recommendation, things may be bleak for this inoffensive feral population (do I detect an attempt to identify a population which would be easy enough to eradicate, and hence to 'tick a box' rather than attempting to remove those species which genuinely present ecological threats...?) 

Hopefully far more research would be done before any action was taken against these two Aesculapian snake populations. It would be great if those concerned with putting this list together actually consulted with people that have real knowledge on the subject and listened to their views and opinions before making any hasty decisions and taking any unnecessary action.

Jason


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 28 Nov 2011 at 7:07am
well said Jason - it needs some proper work, I think.  Ultimately it is unhelpful to put these snakes in the same category as those animals and plants which are clearly detrimental to native species, diverting attention and effort away from species which are harder to control (a smokescreen, perhaps..)
 
What we have here is a species of reptile which is miles from any native reptile population, and which utlises a different niche from our natives in any case, and which feeds almost exclusively on rats and mice.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 28 Nov 2011 at 1:31pm
Seems totally potty to me, we have cases of purposely introduced reptile species that most likely would impact on very rare native species in terms of competition for habitat. Yet even then my view is there would need to be research to determine any actual impact before taking action. 

Perhaps Will something LEHART can address? Surely a case where common sense will prevail and these fascinating creatures will be left to get on with life?


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 28 Nov 2011 at 4:32pm
Hi Gemma - I'm doing my best to ascertain why they've been put on the list and who suggested their prioritising for eradication.  I'm not sure I can do it under the banner of LEHART, since our Trust's objectives are specifically 'the conservation of native amphibians and reptiles in the three counties of London Essex and Herts' (and even I can't argue that they're native!)  But rest assured I'll do what I can, and if it comes to it, perhaps we/ARG UK etc can register disapproval? 
Cheers
Will


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 20 Dec 2011 at 12:25pm
Happy Christmas to all - this report made me chuckle when the journalist got in touch a couple of weeks ago.  Sadly I don't think the snakes have made it along the canal to Hackney...

Cheers

Will




Posted By: JaySteel
Date Posted: 20 Dec 2011 at 6:29pm
Even if  there we did have these "dangerous snakes" along the canal banks as the sign suggests, the risk of being bitten by one would still pale into insignificance in comparison to the risk of being mugged or beaten-up along those canal banks at night or the risk of drowning in the canal itself!

Jason


Posted By: tim hamlett
Date Posted: 20 Dec 2011 at 10:58pm
lol enjoyed that...thanks will.

tim


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 21 Dec 2011 at 9:23am
Thanks Tim.  I always wanted to put up some of those 'lost pet' notices on trees etc saying something like 'Lost, anaconda - answers to the name of Annie, very friendly, cuddly snake, approx 30ft long.  Any information to ...' etc - this notice reminds me of that.


Posted By: will
Date Posted: 31 May 2012 at 7:38pm
Went briefly to the Zoo for a meeting and just had time to spot my first snakes of the year, about 7 weeks later than last year (April was a complete write-off, of course). 

To be precise, I managed to see enough of the snake below to ID it as none other than 'snake 1' - the strimmer wound healing nicely and somewhat to my surprise, it managed to survive the winter and appeared in good condition - great survivor, number 1.  Below that is an individual some distance away with a large prey bulge (small rat, I think) enjoying the hazy sun. 






Posted By: JaySteel
Date Posted: 31 May 2012 at 8:00pm
Hi Will.
I visited the site with two other guys last week (David Jones & Kevin Parr) and bumped into another guy who was also looking for the snakes. His name was John Robertson and apparently he'd already spoken to you.
Anyway we teamed up together and managed to find a beautiful snake basking by the side of the canal. A very calm specimen happy to pose for a few photos. I'm sure you'll be able to identify this one.


http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/526/aesculapiansnake4jasons.jpg/">



http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/840/aesculapiansnake14jason.jpg/">

Jason



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