CONSERVATIONISTS have tried to alleviate fears after a dog was left fighting for its life.

Tilly, an English pointer, was bitten by an adder on the Cumbrian coast after exploring in the dunes.

While they are most prominent at this time of year, Cumbria Wildlife Trust has eased fears about threat posed by the venomous snakes.

While a small dog is vulnerable to the effects of the venom, especially if the bite occurs on its head, the snakes pose little risk to people.

David Harpley, conservation manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: "Adders are seen most at this time of year as they are cold-blooded and when they come out of hibernation, they need to bask in the sunshine.

"This is so they can get their body temperature up before they can get on with mating and hunting for food. Later on in the year when it is warmer, they don't need to bask as much.

"Adders aren't really all that dangerous and the number of people bitten each year in Britain is tiny. If you see one just leave it alone, that way you will not come to any harm."

The advice comes after the English pointer was attacked at Seascale.

It also follows a warning after one animal reportedly died at Birkrigg Common earlier this year.

At first Tilly's owner, Jacqui Evans, did not know what had happened as she went frigid and could hardly move. It wasn't until somebody alerted her to the snakes on the beach that she realised the danger.

The seven-year-old dog was rushed to the vets, with Mrs Evans told it was touch and go.

Tilly has since been discharged after making it through the night.

Mrs Evans said: "She was running through the dunes just up from the beach and jumped backwards and fell down.

"She came back to us and within two minutes was in toxic shock - she just couldn't move.

"I thought she'd maybe drank some salt water and was going to be sick, but a man told us there were adders on the beach and said to get her to the vets.

"I asked the vet if she was going to be OK and they said they didn't know. Some dogs can pull through but they were unsure how bad Tilly was.

"It wasn't a pleasant evening at all. The vet told us if she went downhill during the night they would treat her first and let us know second. We were dreading the phone ringing."

Adders are one of only three types of snakes native to Britain. The venomous snake hibernates between October and spring, coming out when the sun is warm enough to give them energy to move.

Adders can be found in a variety of habitats, including fields, meadows, coastal dunes, hillsides and moors.

They have a grey or brown coloured body with a distinct zigzag pattern along their back. Occasionally they can be completely black.

They tend to eat small rodents, such as the short-tailed vole, as well as lizards, frogs and newts.

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