Written by Jade Walton, Transforming Lives Trainee
In the UK, there are three resident snake species, the grass snake, the smooth snake, and the adder. Each species has a characteristic that makes it unique. The adder is our only venomous species, the smooth snake our only constrictor, and the grass snake is (rather surprisingly) the only one to lay eggs.
It is a common misconception that all reptiles reproduce by laying eggs, but besides the grass snake, the only other UK resident egg-laying reptile is the sand lizard. In our four other species, the females incubate their eggs internally, then ‘give birth’ to their young. This internal incubation gets rid of the need for nest making and laying on the eggs to keep them warm, which is particularly helpful given the unpredictable weather in the UK.
The need to keep eggs warm is a major factor in grass snakes being absent from Scotland since they rely on warmer temperatures for incubation. The best place for grass snakes to lay their eggs is in piles of rotting vegetation, since the process of rotting creates heat. It is for this reason, grass snakes are often found in compost heaps.
By the end of summer, the eggs will have hatched to reveal juvenile snakes that look exactly like their adult counterparts, except for being only a tenth of their length.
The best way you can help your local grass snake population would be to have a compost heap in your garden for them to lay their eggs, or a wildlife pond in which they can hunt.
You can find lots of tips on how to help grass snakes, as well as our other reptile and amphibian species here.