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Smooth Snake

Coronella austriaca

Smooth Snake


This snake is distinguished from similar species by its uniformly colored belly. General body color varies between silvery-grey and a gingery-brown, with a mottled black pattern running the entire length of the body. At first glance, smooth snakes can be confused with adders because of this, but a smooth snake has a more slender build. The eye has a round golden iris and the head is brown with a black crown and eye stripes The common name 'smooth snake' refers to the scales, which lack the keel of other snakes.

Smooth snakes average 19-28 inches in length, with females generally larger than males. Females also have shorter tails and are usually uniform silver grey with distinct spots. Males tend towards browns and reds, the spotting is less marked, and the throat and forepart of the belly are often orange-red.

Distribution and Habitat

Smooth snakes are found throughout most of central and eastern Europe. The species is also present in England, but in a very limited range. Light, sandy heathlands are the preferred habitat, but smooth snakes will also readily live in areas of dense undergrowth.


Breeding occurs when the snakes "wake up" from hibernation in spring (mid-March through to May). How mating pairs are formed has not been determined.

Smooth snakes give birth to live young, after a gestation period of about a year. Brood size ranges from 2 to 15, depending on size of the female, with 10 being the most common. The top of the head of juveniles is entirely black and the lateral series of spots on the body is more strongly marked.

Smooth snakes reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years. Average lifespan in the wild is about 18 years.


Lizards and smaller snakes make up the majority of the smooth snake's diet, but small rodents will also be taken. Juveniles feed entirely on reptiles. Prey is killed by constriction.

Other Behaviors

Smooth snakes are extremely secretive, spending much of their time in a variety of crevices and holes in the ground, under stones, in loose sand and soil, and concealed in litter and vegetation. When basking, they often wrap themselves around heather in order to camouflage themselves.

They are active by day, but avoid too much heat, retreating through the hottest parts of the day and preferring warm cloudy days and/or the first and last few hours of sunlight. In hot weather they can be active at night.

Their home range can be as large as 0.5 to 3 hectares, and they do not move a lot in a day.

They can climb but prefer to dwell on the ground.

If encountered they are quite slow and placid, but if handled they avoid biting.

Scientific Classification

Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Reptilia
Order Squamata
Suborder Serpentes
family Colubridae
genus & species Coronella austriaca

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The Robinson Library >> Reptiles and Amphibians >> Suborder Serpentes

This page was last updated on June 17, 2018.