Snakes

If you see a snake - Keep calm!

  • Don't touch, catch or trap the snake but take a good look.
  • Snakes are quite shy and usually flee from people.
  • Grass snakes and slow-worms are harmless and often visit gardens, over wintering in compost heaps.
  • Adders are venomous but normally pose little threat and are rarely seen in gardens
  • Smooth snakes are very rare and only a few thousand individuals are left in the wild.
  • Try to identify the snake using the information and pictures provided below.

There are three native species (grass snake, adder and smooth snake) and one legless lizard (slow-worm), which is sometimes confused for a snake. Snakes are naturally shy creatures and because of their behaviour they are often feared by humans. There are also a number of exotic species that may have been released and survive in the wild.

Grass Snakes

What do they look like?

Grass Snakes are the largest snake in the UK. They can grow up to 150cm but are more commonly around 75cm in length. They are normally a shade of green with short black vertical bars and/or spots running along their sides and sometimes along the back. There is a yellow or white coloured collar behind the head bordered to the rear with black markings.

How do I spot them?

Often found near water such as rivers, canals, ponds, as well as open grassland, woodland and quite often gardens near these habitats. Their life cycle includes a period of hibernation from October to March, often in compost heaps. Compost heaps in gardens may also be used as egg-laying sites. The young usually appear in late August and September. Grass snakes may visit your garden pond because they mainly feed on amphibians and fish but they are harmless to humans.

How do they affect me?

Grass Snakes pose no real threat. They are scared of humans so if you come into contact with a Grass Snake it is most likely that the snake will slither away.

Adder Vipera berus

What do they look like?

Adders typically grow to around 55 cm, with a distinctive zigzag pattern running along the length of their back. The female snakes are usually brown with dark brown markings and male snakes are normally grey or buff with black markings.

How do I spot them?

Their main habitat is rough grassland and heathland. Adders do not lay eggs or make nests.

How do they affect me?

They are the only venomous snake in the British Isles but because the venom is designed to kill small animals like voles it is not particularly potent. You are more likely to be harmed by bees or horses. However, if an adder bites you it is advisable to seek medical assistance immediately.

Smooth snake Coronella austriaca

What do they look like?

Smooth snakes are slender and normally grow to around 55 cm. They are grey or grey-brown with darker markings along their back and usually a 'butterfly' shape on the top of their head.

How do I spot them?

Smooth snakes are now very rare in the UK but can be found in heathland habitats. It would be very uncommon to find a smooth snake in your garden. They are very secretive and would normally be found underneath objects.

How do they affect me?

Smooth snakes are harmless and will flee if in contact with humans.

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