Grass Snake

The Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), sometimes called the Ringed Snake or Water Snake, is a European non-venomous snake.

The Grass Snake is typically dark green or brown in color with a characteristic yellow collar behind the head, which explains the alternative name ringed snake. The color may also range from grey to black. The underside is lighter in color. In Britain the Grass Snake is the largest reptile reaching up to 120cm total length.

Although they will occasionally eat mammals and fish, their main prey are amphibians, especially the common frog. Grass Snakes are strong swimmers and are usually found close to fresh water.

Grass Snakes hibernate over the winter and mate soon after they emerge in the spring during April or May. The leathery skinned eggs are laid in batches of 8-40 in June to July and hatch after about 10 weeks. As eggs require a temperature of at least 21° C to hatch, rotting vegetation, including compost heaps are preferred locations. The young are around 18cm long when they hatch and are immediately independent.

Not being venomous, their only defenses are to produce a foul-smelling fluid from the anal glands and/or feign death. Sometimes, they will also perform fake attacks, striking without actually opening their mouths. They rarely bite in defense.

This snake is found in lowland areas of England and Wales but is almost absent from Scotland and not found in Ireland. It has a wide distribution in continental Europe, from southern Scandinavia to southern Italy. It is also found in northwestern Africa. British Grass Snakes belong to the subspecies Natrix natrix helvetica, but experts differ on the number of subspecies.