This holiday thousands of Czechs have taken off for their country cottages, or 'chata', to enjoy the record temperatures out on the lawn. But they're not the only ones being tempted out to bathe in the sun. This is the high season for grass-snakes too. And thanks to their slithery appearance - which really is worse than their non-poisonous bite - they are being killed off in droves by scared sunbathers. The Czech society for the Protection of Nature has launched an awareness scheme, and is hoping that Czechs will follow a few easy steps before whipping out the Swiss-army knife. Rosie Johnston reports.
More Czechs have died from poisoned mushrooms than from snake bites; yet while the former remain a national obsession, snakes continue to enjoy an extremely bad press. There is only one type of poisonous snake in the Czech Republic, and as Daniela Mrockova from the Czech Society for the Protection of Nature tells me, it's not exactly a killer-cobra;
"The adder is a very shy animal, which tries to hide from people, and slithers off as fast as it can whenever people come near. So it is very rare for a person to actually come across an adder. Should someone find an adder, and then be bitten by it, the adder will most likely only inject some of its poison into the bite. And even if it injected all of the poison that it had into 'the victim' then this would only be a dose of around 8-10 milligrams. It takes more than 15 milligrams of this poison to kill a person."
Adders prefer to live at altitudes of above 800 metres, so if your 'chata' isn't halfway up a hill, it's not likely that the snake slithering about in your garden is an adder. Instead, it may be one of the species of grass-snake that live in the Czech Republic. But how can I tell? Daniela Mrockova is at hand with the information;
"It's possible to tell the difference between an adder and a grass snake, because an adder is short and stumpy and pointed at the end. One of an adder's key features are its red oval eyes, and it also has very distinctive black zig-zag running down its back. It's a sort of black or grey colour over-all."
For those who are intrepid enough to go and compare; grass snakes have round eyes, round-shaped heads and a big black stripe somewhere near the top of their bodies.
The Society for the Protection of Nature are hoping that a newly informed Czech public will no longer panic at the sight of their sunbathing partners, and maybe even hand over a patch of lawn to their sibilant sidekicks.
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