Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca)

The Smooth snake is a relatively rare British constrictor snake which poses no threat to humans but is sometime mistaken for the adder which is poisonous. They are slender and can grow up to 85cm long but more commonly around 60cm with flat scales that range from grey (in females) to brown (in males) in colour. A pattern of dark spots runs along the back and these sometimes join up making a pattern that resembles an Adder’s but without the zigzag pattern. They also frequently have a dark stripe which runs from the base of the head to nose through the eye which is orange with a round black pupil. They gain their name from the smooth scales which are thought to help them move easily through their under ground burrows. They are thought to have a life span of about 12 years, like Grass snakes they have been know to spray a noxious liquid from anal glands when threatened

The smooth snake is a contrictor unlike the Adder and the Grass snake. They use stealth to get near their prey and then rapidly strike biting smaller prey and contricting larger prey. They are an aggressive hunter feeding on other reptiles including snakes  as well as rodents and invertebrates.


In the UK the Smooth snake is rare confined to areas of Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, they can be found in other European countries and as far east as Turkey and Iran.  The smooth snake favours heather and Gorse areas rather than damper areas like the Grass snake but can be found near scree slopes and open woodland.


Smooth snakes will group together to hibernate in the UK , starting hibernation around October and emerging late March. Males will then fight for the larger females in a sort of wrestling match rearing up and trying to push each other to the ground. Smooth snakes do not lay eggs but like slow worms give birth to live young in May with up to 15 young being born inside an egg sack which then then break through with their heads. Some reserachers suggest that a second breeding season can occur in late summer early autunm if the weather is mild and food plentiful.  The young are about 15cmm long and feed on other reptiles hunting other small or young snakes and lizards, the young lack the stripe on the head as their head is completely black.

The Smooth snake is covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to harm them or to handle them as this can also cause distress and harm the animal. Numbers in the UK are limited due to loss of habitat and sutiable prey.