Natrix natrix (aka
Ringed Snake, Water Snake)
This snake is typically
olive-green, brown or grayish along on the back
with two rows of small black spots arranged
alternately. Along the flanks are black vertical
bars. The characteristic feature is a yellowish,
orange, pink or white patch either side of the
neck forming an incomplete collar or ring.
Males and females are generally
similar in appearance, although females are
usually larger. They are usually 2½-3 feet long,
but longer ones have been recorded.
Distribution and Habitat
The grass snake ranges from
Britain through Europe and into central Asia, as
well as northwestern Africa. It is most commonly
found near ponds and streams, on marshy ground or
in damp woodlands.
Frogs make up a major portion
of the grass snake's diet, followed by newts,
fish and tadpoles. Lizards and slowworms, shrews,
mice, voles, and young birds are also taken on
occasion. Most of the food is caught in the
water. Smaller prey is usually swallowed while
the snake is still submerged, while larger prey
is brought to land before being swallowed. Most
feeding is done in the early morning.
Mating takes place in April and
May. Eggs -- 30 or 40 per clutch -- are laid in
June or July, under heaps of decaying leaves or
rotting vegetation, under hayricks or heaps of
sawdust in sawmills, in compost or manure heaps.
The eggs hatch in 6 to 10 weeks.
Other Habits and
snake's first line of defense is to strike as any
poisonous snake would, but with its mouth shut.
At the same it blows up its body and hisses. If
this tactic doesn't work it will then emit an
evil-smelling secretion that smells somewhat like
that of a skunk. If still threatened, the snake
will simply turn on its back, open its mouth, let
its tongue loll, and hold itself rigid -- that
is, play dead. If you were to turn the snake over
on its belly at this point it would simply roll
back over and continue to play dead, and it will
continue to do so no matter how many times you
turn it over.
Grass snakes are active by day.
They are good climbers, but seldom go more than a
few feet off the ground. They are good swimmers
and take to water readily.
Grass snakes hibernate from
October to April, but the period varies according
to latitude, being shorter in the south. Usually
many come together in holes in the ground, but
smaller numbers may pass the winter under logs,
boulders or piles of brushwood.
genus & species Natrix natrix
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