Factsheet

Snake (Smooth)

Smooth snakes are extremely rare in this country and you are unlikely to see one. They live only in a few isolated areas of heathland in Southern England.

Overview

Illustration of a Smooth SnakeSize: up to 75cm.

Life-span: Up to 20 years.

Food: Mainly lizards, sometimes young snakes and small mammals.

Breeding season: Spring. 3 to 15 young are born fully developed in mid summer.

Distribution: Areas of southwest Britain, in western Europe from Spain to Scandinavia, also in western Asia and the Balkans.

Habitat: Dry, sunny places in open woods, heaths and along banks. Up to 2,000 metres in mountains. Mostly near water supply.

Description: The male smooth snake is brownish in colour, the female is greyish, and both have 2-4 rows of dark grey-brown spots which may join in crossbars along the back. Both are slimly built, with oval-shaped heads and rounded eyes and pupils. The scales on the back are entirely smooth, and arranged in 19 rows.

Daily Life

Smooth snakes are active during the day, and spend most of their time either basking in the sun or lying in water. They are slow moving and rather secretive. They are also extremely rare in this country, so you are unlikely to see one. They live only in a few isolated areas of heathland in Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey, Wiltshire and Sussex.

Smooth snakes are constrictors, and grip their prey in their mouths whilst wrapping their coils around their bodies to suppress struggling. If threatened, they will bite readily, and tend to hang on. They also produce a foul-smelling substance from their anal glands as a means of defence. Their bite, though painful is not poisonous, and they will tame readily once their initial fear has been overcome.

Threats to the smooth snake. In this country, habitat destruction is a serious threat to the smooth snake. Areas of heathland are being destroyed to make way for the building of houses, and where this is happening, smooth snakes are dying out. Additional dangers come from areas where housing is near heathland, as the snakes are vulnerable to attacks by domestic cats and people.

Smooth snakes are now fully protected in this country under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and their habitat is protected under European law.

Credits

Image: Snake (Smooth) by Alexandre Roux

Information sourced from:

Froglife (2015), Amphibians and Reptiles, Smooth Snake [online], Available from: http://www.froglife.org/amphibians-and-reptiles/smooth-snake/ [accessed 14/08/2015].

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