Grass Snake Fact File

Natrix natrix

Credit: Public Domain

Weight

96.25g

(3.4oz)

Length

80cm

(2.6ft)

Lifespan

Wild 20 years

Captive 20 years

Diet

Carnivore

Fish, Amphibians

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

A Snake in the Water!

Despite being known as the grass snake this species is commonly found near the water and is an able swimmer often entering the water.

In the water they seek out their favored food sources such as fish and amphibians. On land they are also able to feed on fish and mammals.

Females deposit their eggs among rotting vegetation which helps to provide the warmth needed for successful incubation.

This species is under threat from habitat loss and destruction along with pollution which primarily reduces their potential food sources.

Read on to learn more about these radical reptiles.

Appearance

What does the Grass Snake look like?

Across their body the scales of the grass snake are colored brown or green. Their is some local variation in coloration. In colder regions it is common to see darker snakes which are able to better absorb the warmth from the sun.


Fully black individuals of this species have been observed as have albinos.


On their underside the scales are a creamish or white color with some black bands and patches across it.


Within their eye is a large, round, black pupil which is helpful to determine them from other snakes in their range such as the adder which has a diamond shaped pupil.


An average individual will grow to 80cm (2.6ft) though some extraordinarily long individuals have been recorded at up to 130cm (4.3ft). An average weight for this species is 96.25g (3.4oz). Females are typically much larger than males. Males also tend to have longer tails than females.

Adaptations

How does the Grass Snake survive in its habitat?


The grass snake is able to play dead if threatened even slowing its breathing so much that it is almost unnoticeable.


Glands next to their cloaca produce a foul-smelling liquid which is use to scare off any would be predators.

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Diet

What does the Grass Snake eat?

Grass snakes are carnivores. They are at home in the water and will regularly enter this to find fish or amphibians to feed on. Small birds and mammals may also be consumed.

Learn more about the Grass Snake in this video from Sally Le Page on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Grass Snake?

Europe and Asia is the native home of the grass snake. Here they can be found in the following countries – Albania; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Cyprus; Czechia; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iran; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Norway; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Turkey; Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

Parts of their range overlap with another species also known as the grass snake (Natrix helvetica).

Habitat

Where can the Grass Snake survive?

Grass snakes are found in forest, shrubland, grassland and wetland habitats. They tend to favor damp habitats and are regularly found near water.


Where water is available they are able to remain in areas which have been subject to modification by humans.

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Credit: Public Domain

Reproduction

How does the Grass Snake produce its young?

Breeding takes place from March to June. This leads to egg laying occurring during June and July.


Each female may produce as many as 100 eggs in each clutch. Only larger females will produce these large clutches with most females producing just 10 eggs.


Hatching tends to take between 6 and 8 weeks but is variable with the weather.


Their eggs are often deposited in piles of decaying vegetation which provide warmth to assist with the incubation of the eggs.


At hatching the young are independent.


Males achieve sexual maturity by three years old but in females this typically takes four to five years.

Behavior

What does the Grass Snake do during its day?

These animals are able to swim well and will make their way in to the water to find food.


This species of snake is considered to be non-venomous.


At least once per year this snake will shed the outer layer of scale revealing a fresh layer underneath. This helps to refresh any damage to their skin. During the few days that this is occurring they will take on a milky white appearance.


Like most reptiles they take their warmth from the environment and use it to generate the energy they need to survive.

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What stops the Grass Snake from surviving and thriving?

A number of species prey on the grass snake including birds of prey and mammals such as foxes or cats.


If a predator approaches the grass snake it will dive in to nearby vegetation.


When they are caught by an attacker they have the ability to squirt foul-smelling liquid to try and prevent the attack. If this is unsuccessful the snake is able to play dead.


This species is considered common with a population which is remaining stable despite having become fragmented. In some localized areas such as Mongolia numbers of the grass snake are in decline.


Threats facing this species include reduction in prey availability through water pollution and habitat loss or alteration such as the draining of wetlands.


In some areas of their range heavy gold mining can lead both to habitat loss and pollution.


Small numbers are collected across their range for the pet trade but this is not considered to have a major effect on their population.

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Quick facts

This species may also be known as the ringed snake or water snake.


Their Latin name ‘natrix’ comes from a word for ‘to swim.’


They were first described for modern science during 1758.


The population of similar snakes found in the United Kingdom have been split in to their own species known as the barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica) since August 2017 following genetic analysis.

A number of subspecies of this species are recognized but the exact number is debated and some have recently been elevated to full species as discussed above.

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Credit: Public Domain

References

Aghasyan, A., Avci, A., Tuniyev, B., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Lymberakis, P., Andrén, C., Cogălniceanu, D., Ananjeva, N.B., Üzüm, N., Orlov, N.L., Podloucky, R., Tuniyev, S., Kaya, U., Ajtic, R., Vogrin, M., Corti, C., Pérez Mellado, V., Sá-Sousa, P., Cheylan, M., Pleguezuelos, J., Sterijovski, B., Nettmann, H.K., Borczyk, B., Schmidt, B., Meyer, A., Lau, M., Borkin, L., Milto, K., Golynsky, E., Belouskova, A., Rustamov, A, Nuridjanov, D. & Munkhbayar, K. 2021. Natrix natrixThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T165594334A545209. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T165594334A545209.en. Accessed on 06 April 2022.

Animal Database. 2022. European Grass Snake. [online] Available at: <https://animals.fandom.com/wiki/European_Grass_Snake> [Accessed 6 April 2022].

Maretarium. 2022. European grass snake – Maretarium. [online] Available at: <https://maretarium.fi/en/rantakaarme/> [Accessed 6 April 2022].

Web.archive.org. 2022. Grass snake factsheet on Arkive – Natrix natrix. [online] Available at: <https://web.archive.org/web/20190201061007/http://www.arkive.org/grass-snake/natrix-natrix/factsheet> [Accessed 6 April 2022].

The Reptile Database. 2022. Natrix natrix. [online] Available at: <https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Natrix&species=natrix> [Accessed 6 April 2022].

Genomics.senescence.info. 2022. Grass snake (Natrix natrix) longevity, ageing, and life history. [online] Available at: <https://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Natrix_natrix> [Accessed 6 April 2022].

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