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Herpetologica Hungarica- Part II.- Grass snake2014-11-25

In the second chapter of our series introducing native snake species, we are discussing the grass snake (Natrix natrix), which is probably the best-known native snake species in Hungary...

The grass snake is native in most European countries from Scandinavia to Italy (with absence in Ireland), but they can also be found in the Middle East and Northwest Africa.

The color of grass snakes varies from light grey, through light brown to completely dark. They have two yellow spots behind the neck, which is a characteristic of this species. There exist melanistic specimens in some populations that have almost jet-black overall. Several subspecies have been described and some of them can occur even in the very same population, suggesting there may exist transitional forms, as well.

Old female grass snake (Natrix natrix) found near Csopak, Hungary.

They feature a strong sexual dimorphism: females are heavier and can reach up to 1,5 meters, while males are slimmer and can barely grow to 1,1 meters.

In contrast with dice snake, Natrix tesselata, grass snakes are not closely realted to freshwater habitat. They feed on amphibians, mostly frogs and toads, however they often prey fishes that they will swallow live without using constriction.

Grass snake (Natrix natrix) transitional form found on Krk Island, Croatia.

When being threatened, grass snake can also release smelly secretion from cloaca or play dead (thanatosis). Sometimes they are hissing and striking with mouth closed toward the offender. Actual bites are exceptionally rare.

They endure the winter months underground. After waking up from hibernation, first copulations take place, then female will lay 8-35 eggs in compost heaps or other prefered locations with relatively high temperature and humidity. After 10 weeks of incubation, freshly hatched grass snakes are barely 18 cm long.

Young specimen found in Csopak, Hungary.

As all reptile and amphibian species, grass snakes are also protected.

Dr. Botond Ádám

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