Types of Snakes & Identification

It is rare to see snakes in the U.S. but there are some signs that you can look out for if you are concerned that they are venomous

If you do spot one, it will usually be one of the following:

Adder - Common Viper

(Vipera berus)

Appearance

  • Dark brown, reddish or black zigzag from head to tail. Spots on sides.
  • Entirely black adders sometimes occur. 55 cm in length.
  • The only venomous native snake in the [country].

Life Cycle

  • Breed once every 2 to 3 years.
  • Litters range from 3 to 20, born in late summer.
  •  Tend to have a timid nature only biting when cornered or alarmed.

Habitat

  • Seen basking in sunny spots. Heathland, bogs, moorland, woodland edge, rough grassland; sometimes on derelict urban areas and railway banks.
  • Prefer sandy or chalky soils; rare found on clay soils.
  • Found in most counties of [country], but rare in [country or area] and [country or area].

Grass snake – Water snake

(Natrix natrix)

Appearance

  • Olive-green, brown or grey in colour.
  • Neck: yellow or white mark, next to black mark.
  • Black bars down sides, some black spots on top.
  • Markings are occasionally faint.
  • 75 cm in length.
  • Very fast moving but not venomous.
  • Strong swimmers.

Life Cycle

  • Leathery skinned eggs are laid in batches of 8 to 40 in June and July, hatching after 10 weeks.
  • To survive the eggs need to stay in a temperature range of 21 to 28 degrees centigrade, so are often found in rotting vegetation and compost heaps.
  • Not being venomous their defence is to produce garlic smelling fluids from anal glands.

Habitat

  • Associated with ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, canals, marshes.
  • Travel widely in surrounding habitats: woodland, grassland, low intensity farmland, heathland, derelict urban areas.
  • Can travel long distances.
  • Compost heaps and ponds may attract grass snakes.

Smooth Snake

(Coronella austriaca)

Appearance

  • Grey or brown in colour.
  • Dark blotches on back, normally in pairs.
  • Dark blotch on head.
  • 55 cm in length.
  • Not venomous.

Life Cycle

  • Eggs are buried in sandy soil , in warm places.

Habitat

  • Secretive, normally found underneath objects.
  • Very rare – only found close to heathland sites in [country].

Slow worm

(Anguis fragilis)

Appearance

  • Protected lizard species in the [country] that is often mistaken for a snake
  • Brown, copper, golden or grey in colour; may have black/dark brown sides and thin stripe on back.
  • Small head, often with dark spot.
  • Very shiny, metallic sheen to scales.
  • Tail often blunt. 35 cm in length, but can be shorter, as they often lose their tails.

Life Cycle

  • Slow-worms hibernate over the winter.
  • Slow-worms hibernate from mid to late October to late February or early March depending on weather.
  • They do not lay eggs but give birth to live young, from mid-August to late September.

Habitat

  • Heathland, bogs, moorland, woodland edge, rough grassland; often found in derelict urban areas and on railway banks.
  • Found in gardens with long grass and refuges such as wood piles.
  • May be found in city gardens.