Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Baby adders set to brave winter

A baby adder next to a two-pence coin
Twelve baby adders have been hand-reared at the wildlife park

Baby adders at a wildlife park in Kent are about to leave their indoor nursery for a hibernation box where they will spend the winter.

Keepers at the Wildwood Trust have spent two years hand-rearing them and will now have to wait to see if their 12 infants survive the cold.

The hibernation box has been specially built in the park's adder enclosure.

Head keeper Paul Wirdnam said: "We've taken every precaution we can to make them as ready as they can possibly be."

He said keepers had tried to feed the adders up and give them a natural dry habitat to hibernate in.

"It's fingers crossed and hope for the best," he added.

'Underground kingdom'

The hibernation box has been filled with straw and dead leaves to keep the adders warm and safe from the weather, he said.

Leaf litter has also been used to create a "natural underground kingdom of self-draining tunnels" underneath the box, so the snakes can choose where they want to spend the winter.

Keepers trained the baby adders to be fed by tongs and recorded the snakes' diets during their time indoors, in a bid to find out how much food they would need to survive hibernation during the cold weather.

Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

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