Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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Reptiles & amphibians

Grass snake (Natrix natrix)

Description

The grass snake is a thick-bodied, large reptile, which usually grows to a length of 1.20 m, including the tail. However, it has been recorded up to a length of 2 m. It has a well-defined head and round pupils. It has nineteen keeled scales across the middle of its back. The males and females are relatively similar in appearance, although the females are usually larger, sometimes twice as long as the males. Males can also be distinguished from the females by the presence of swelling at the base of the tail. The colouration of N. natrix is variable, but many have a characteristic yellow and black bordered collar just behind the head. The body is usually olive-grey, greenish, or olive-brown in colour with various dark blotches or sometimes light stripes. The underside is whitish or grey and marked with black. Totally black, melanistic forms and albinos are occasionally seen.

Habitat

N. natrix is usually found near water, over the majority of its distribution is in damp fields and woods, reaching an altitude of up to 2400 m above sea level. In northern Europe it is a lowland species and is less restricted in its habitat. In these areas it can be found in open woods, hedgerows, gardens, parks and rough grasslands.

Diet

In most areas the grass snake eats primarily toads and frogs. Occasionally fish, newts, tadpoles, small mammals, bird hatchlings and other snakes are taken. All prey is eaten alive and it will avoid carrion. Juveniles eat predominantly tadpoles and invertebrates.

Protection status

This species is listed as “Least Concern” by IUCN Red List.

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