Saturday, 3 May 2014

Smooth Snake...

As anyone who knows me will testify, I LOVE REPTILES. I'm nuts about snakes and lizards - can't get enough of them. But there's one gem of a snake that's harder to find than a black cat in a coal cellar, the wonderfully named Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca.

Definitely one of my favourite snakes (lets face it, we only have three natives to choose from), the Smooth Snake is now a mega rarity and pretty much always difficult to find. The highest populations are confined to suitable heathland habitats in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey with smaller numbers in West Sussex and introductions in one or two other places. The Smooth Snake is an almost mythical reptile in Britain. They are members of the widespread Colubrid family (Grass Snake being the other UK representative) and are harmless - although larger specimens can draw blood with their small, needle-like teeth. Regarded as dietary specialists they are quite partial to lizards (including the rare Sand Lizard) and have been know to eat slow worms too. Smoothies are constrictors and will bite to hold their prey before wrapping coils around them to suffocate and subdue them. Prey is then swallowed whole, head first often alive. They are truly stunning creatures and if you're ever lucky enough to see one, you'll appreciate just how graceful and elegant they are. Another trait of smoothies is the habit of sitting still when spotted, unlike other snakes they don't usually flee but sit tight in the hope you haven't seen them. A last minute decision yesterday to take the day off paid dividends. Literally stumbled across this one (probably female) while walking through suitable habitat.

Typical  behaviour - balling up and hiding the head from
potential predators: R. Harris
Showing the round pupil, dark line through the eye,
paired spots along the body and smooth (not keeled) scales.
R. Harris
Showing the head pattern with open 'V' or 'U' posteriorly
on the head and the rostral scale pushing between the
two inter-nasal shields at the snout tip.
This was a young snake, about 45cm in length.
They normally reach 60-70cm
On the move - Portrait shot - what a stunner! R. Harris
Beautiful portrait shot: Dave Helliar
Smooth Snake: Dave Helliar
Smooth Snake: Dave Helliar
Smooth Snake: Dave Helliar

What a rare treat! Wish I could find them more often but they are highly elusive to say the least.


  1. Hi,
    We saw one last week. got some good photos too. In Somerset

  2. Hi Susan,

    That's an interesting record. There are historical records for Somerset but nothing in recent times. If you would be happy to send me a photo for confirmation I'd be pleased to take a look.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Of course I can, not sure how though?
    can I post it here or do I need to email it to you?