Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)
This beautiful non-native snake has been introduced from mainland Europe to a couple of sites in the UK. Unlike our native snake species, they can be found in trees or bushes as they are very good at climbing.
|Identification||Adults up to 2 m in length. Average length of 150 cm. Long, smooth-scaled body. Adults uniformly grey, olive or brownish with some light stippling on scales. Juveniles have a well-defined dark stripe along the side of the head and a dark V or U shaped mark on neck. Round pupil.|
|Distribution||Non-native species. Native to central and eastern Europe.
Two colonies known in the UK: Colwyn Bay, North Wales and Regents Park, London.
|Ecology||Very adept climber so often seen in trees and bushes. Hunts small birds, mammals and reptiles during the day. Males are sexually mature when they reach 100 cm and females at 85 cm. Breeding occurs in spring, typically mid-May to mid-June. Females lay between 5-11 pear-shaped eggs in a moist, warm spot. Eggs take 6 to 10 weeks to hatch.|
|Predators and other threats||In the UK, adult snakes could be preyed on by Badgers, Foxes, Wild boar, birds of prey. Juveniles could be eaten by Hedgehogs and birds of prey, rats, cats, dogs and chickens.
In their native areas, the snakes are listed as Least Concern for conservation on the IUCN website due to a wide distribution. Road mortality, habitat fragmentation (agricultural intensification and afforestation) and persecution of both adults and eggs are concerning as causes of potential local declines.
N.B. The release of exotic species into the wild is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.