Adder DNA taken to research sharp population decline
A snake expert from Herefordshire has been taking DNA samples from wild adders to see if there is a genetic cause for the decline in their numbers.
Experts are concerned that the gene pool is now so small it is causing abnormalities such as kinked spines and missing eyes.
Nigel Hand, an adder expert, fears that the problems may be caused by related snakes breeding with each other.
"These are warning signs and what we are doing is a health check," he said.
Adder populations are now restricted to small geographical areas by barriers like roads and woodlands.
Mr Hand said once they had analysed the results of the DNA tests they will face a choice about how to tackle the population decline.
"Do we bring adders into the site or do we manipulate the site and extend it so that populations can link to each other and cross the hard barriers?" he said.