A snake in the pond

Tuesday 29 May 2012, 12:40

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron

The grass snake Natrix natrix or more aptly named water snake is a non-venomous snake found throughout the UK and Europe.

The largest of our three native snakes, it can grow over 1.5m in length with the females being larger than the males.

Grass snake by Darren Harries

A grass snake recently photographed by Darren Harries.

They're normally olive green or brown in colour with a characteristic yellow collar behind the head. The undersides are paler white with distinctive blocks of black.

Grass snakes can be tricky to spot due to their speed, agility and camouflage and are one of the few animals that will fake death, becoming completely limp if cornered.

Another defensive technique they use is to excrete a foul smelling liquid from their anal glands which apparently takes a long time to remove from your hands - should you be tempted to pick one up.

Like most snakes, you have to be extremely lucky and patient to spot one, as they will invariably slither away at the slightest vibration as you approach.

Grass snakes are excellent swimmers so your best chance of seeing one is actually when it's swimming in water or curled up in a pond hiding under foliage near the bank.

A swimming grass snake by Rat Salad.

A swimming grass snake by Rat Salad.

Grass snakes prefer being close to water where they prey upon frogs, toads, small fish and the occasional small mammal or bird.

As Britain's only egg laying snake, a favourite haunt is in garden compost heaps which provide the perfect conditions for incubating their eggs in.

Grass snakes eggs will lay up to 40 eggs which require temperatures between 21-28 degrees with plenty of humidity.

Grass snake by Dave Hill @ DEFRA

Grass snake by Dave Hill @ DEFRA

After about 10 weeks the young snakes emerge in early autumn but few reach adulthood, becoming prey to other animals and as a result of this and loss of habitat, these snakes are now in decline.

The head markings on the snakes are unique like a fingerprint and can be used to identify individuals age, sex and distribution

If you do happen to find a grass snake in your garden then don't panic, they're completely harmless and you're incredibly lucky to have one.

BBC Wildlife Finder: Grass snakes

Wikipedia: Grass snakes



Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    A few week ago i was picking blackberries, when i found what looked like a dead snake, i was entangled in the netting i had put on because we of the birds, eating the fruit, it was very decayed, but it still looked as though the eyes were intact, having just read your details on grass snakes, i wondered if it could have been the skin of one. Today we were putting something in the compost heap and removed the top cover there was a snake curled up amongst the grass, could this be a hibernating snake, or one guarding eggs. We covered it over and will not disturb it again, but we would like to know if there is any thing we can do to protect it


This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Hazy sunshine

Tuesday 29 May 2012, 10:11

Remembering Hugh Griffith, 100 years on

Wednesday 30 May 2012, 09:00

About this Blog

Behind the scenes on our biggest shows, the stories you won't see on TV & highlights from Welsh history, arts and music.

Follow us on Twitter & Facebook for the latest posts.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

BBC Wales tweets