Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)
The Smooth Snake is the UK’s rarest reptile and is only found on the heathlands of Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex. Their name comes from the fact the scales are smooth and flat, unlike the Grass Snake’s and Adder’s scales which have a ridge down the middle. They are a shy, secretive snake.
|Identification||Adults 60-70 cm in length. Females often bigger than males. Slender body. Usually grey or brown in colour with a paler belly. Usually have two rows of dark spots down the back and a heart-shaped crown on the head. Dark line runs along the side of the head, through the eye. Circular pupils.|
|Distribution||Native to the UK. UK’s rarest reptile: only found on heathlands of Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex. Found across Europe and in parts of Russia.|
|Ecology||Found in dense, mature heather on dry, sandy or gravely heathland sites. Often found hiding under stones, logs and other debris in sunny spots. Ground dwelling but often seen climbing in bushy vegetation. Feed on small reptiles, small mammals and birds.|
|Predators and other threats||Predators include birds of prey, pheasants, crows, foxes, badgers, and weasels. May secrete foul-smelling substance from anal glands if threatened. Threatened by loss and degradation of heathland habitats.|
A year in the life…Spring
Adults emerge during March/April, when males will start competing for a female. Mating takes place in April/May.
Female Smooth Snakes incubate their eggs internally and ‘give birth’ to 4-15 live young around September. Juvenile Smooth Snakes look like miniature versions of the adults.
The rest of the year is spent hunting for lizards, rodents and sometimes invertebrates; prey is subdued by constriction. Smooth Snakes tend to bask entwined in heather, where they are well camouflaged, or under other objects (as slow-worms do); they are quite slow moving and will freeze if disturbed.
Smooth Snakes hibernate communally between November and March.
N.B. Smooth snakes have full legal protection under UK law making it an offence to kill, injure, capture, disturb or sell them, or to damage or destroy their habitats. This applies to all life-stages.