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Slow-worm (Anguis Fragilis)

I I have so many childhood memories of Slow worms as we would love to collect them or play with them, treating them like harmless pets. I still remember my excitement in finding my captured Slow worm had many small bright yellow babies which I released. Those days the gardens were not so well kept and none of the garden equipment now used, and so many people in urban areas now have cats which are not good for a Slow worm. I have been living in my house for 35 years and have only seen one large Slow worm in my garden.

Ironically Slow worms are good for the garden as they feed on many garden pests such as slugs and snails, they will also eat many other insects including earthworms.

I still find them in the wild usually sunbathing in sheltered places, and can never resist trying to take another photograph. One place I found large numbers living commonly was near Winchester, Hampshire, found under old lino flooring and cogitated tin, left scattered from a disused army base.

Slow worms are not snakes, they are legless lizards and not always slow as documented in many books. They can disappear quite quickly when they want to, especially if warmed by the sun. Care has to be taken when handling these gentle creatures or they will shed their tail, this is a natural defense mechanism to confuse or make its predator chase the tail, as it carries on wiggling violently for some time. It does grow back but it is never the same more like a slightly pointed shortened stump. Many of the larger Slow worms I find in the wild have shortened tails, which shows they have had to use such a defense to avoid a predator in the wild. I prefer not to photography such poor specimens, maybe just a close up of the head.

When filming them close up its always there friendly-looking eyes that fascinate me, they even have eyelids. They hibernate during the winter in tree roots, leaves, compost heaps, from October to February/March. Slow worms are very long-lived and a lovely animal, now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Andy Newman© 19/06/10