Posted by: braddenvillage | July 9, 2010

The Grass Snake

Many of you may have spotted Grass Snakes basking in the sun around Bradden, found their shed skins in your gardens, or even spotted them dead in the road.

As a dedicated snake phobic, I decided that perhaps a little more knowledge of this harmless snake, might reduce the “shiver” factor that afflicted me, when ever I spot a Grass Snake.

I obtained this information from the website – Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK. To go to their website click here: :http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/grass_snake.htm

Identification

Reptile – Non-Venomous Snake

Distinct yellow/cream/white and black Collar around neck

Round pupil

Dorsal surface and flanks, olive green/green with distinct bars

May appear very dark before skin shedding (sloughing)

Ventral surface, white/cream with black chequers, some individuals have an almost entirely black underside.

Some colour variation occurs, the most distinctive features of the Grass Snake are the black and yellow/cream/white crescent shaped collar on the neck and its long slender appearance.

The light part of the collar marking is occasionally missing, particularly in older females, the black crescent part of the collar is always present.

Length: The Grass Snake is the largest indigenous reptile in the UK, typically males reach 100 cm, females up to130 cm, though larger individuals have been recorded.

Sexing

Males are smaller than females but have a relatively longer tail in comparison. Males have noticeable swellings at the vent. The Grass Snake may be sexed by a sub-caudal scale count, males have 68-72 sub-caudal scales, females 52-56.

Eggs

Eggs are laid in June and July. The female may lay up to 40 leathery matt-white eggs, often choosing compost and manure heaps as the warmth acts as a natural incubator. The eggs measure from 23-30mm. The hatchlings emerge in autumn.

What else could it be?

Often confused with the Adder (Vipera berus) the Grass Snake is a non-venomous and harmless creature. The Adder has a more thickset body, a distinct zigzag stripe down its back and a V or X shape marking on the head. The Adder may also be distinguished by its vertically slit pupil.

Sometimes the Grass Snake is confused with the Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis), which is a leg-less lizard and not a snake at all. The Slow-worm is a smaller creature (40 – 45cm) with a glassy grey/brown appearance.

Where will I see a Grass Snake and is it dangerous?

The Grass Snake favours rough land and pastures, usually close to a standing body of water. Feeding almost exclusively on amphibians, some individuals may take small fish. The Grass Snake is an occasional garden visitor.

Grass Snakes only show aggression if cornered, hissing loudly and recoiling into a position that looks like they may strike. This is bluff, they rarely bite and if handled often play dead. As with all our native snakes, the best option is simply to leave the snake to get on with its daily business.

Feigning death. This is one of the defensive tactics used by the Grass Snake, others are hissing loudly and exuding a foul smelling liquid from the anal vent if captured.


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