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A slow worm appeared in our garden yesterday. Please can you tell me: 1) Do they bite? 2) Do they eat frogs? 3) Should it be moved somewhere more suitable than my garden?

Sent in by Jacquey Thurlow, Brightlingsea, Essex

Despite looking like snakes, slow worms, are actually legless lizards. With their smooth-scaled bodies and blunt shaped heads, adult slow worms can grow up to 50cm in length. Whilst male slow worms are grey brown in colour, females are brown and have dark sides with a line running down their back. Slow worms also differ from snakes in that they have closable eyelids and tails, which drop off if they are trying to escape danger.

Well-vegetated areas with dense ground cover are ideal habitats for slow worms, and they can often be found in woodland glades, pastures, heaths, scrubland, as well as railway and motorway embankments. Gardens can often provide suitable places for slow worms as well; compost heaps along with loose soil, decaying vegetation, logs and large flat stones provide ideal refuges for them. Pieces of tin or plastic, piles of stones and rubble can also provide ideal hiding places. Slow worms will burrow and hibernate underground from October to March.

Being most active at dusk, slow worms eat mainly slow moving prey such as slugs, worms, snails as well as the odd insect and spider. They do not bite people and are completely harmless. Slow worms, are protected by law and it is a criminal offence to deliberately kill them. Should you happen upon a slow worm, the best thing to do is to leave it alone or cover it back over carefully.

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