This grass snake was brought to Temple End Vets recently, after being found caught in mesh on an allotment in West Wycombe. Luckily the mesh hadn’t caused much damage to the snake so, having removed the mesh, it was given an anti-inflammatory injection and a bath and then put back where it was found. The Grass snake didn’t seem concerned about being handled and it caused quite a stir with the staff – some were keener to see it than others!
Our vet Kezia, who has a particular interest in exotics, has written some facts about the UK’s three native snakes:
The grass snake is common and wide spread in Europe, and it is the UK’s largest reptile. They are usually found on rough land and pastures near to water as they feed almost exclusively on amphibians. Grass snakes are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1998), it is therefore an offence to kill harm or injure them, sell or trade them in anyway.
The females usually lay eggs in June/July, with hatchlings emerging in the autumn. Grass snakes tend to hunt after breeding and may travel widely. They are active predators for frogs and toads, although fish, small mammals and birds will also be consumed. These snakes hibernate in the cooler winter months. Males can grow up to one metre in length, where as females are the larger and can reach 130 centimetres.
There are three species of snake in Great Britain, the Adder (Vipera berus), the Grass snake (Natrix natrix) and Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca). The Adder is a venomous viper species, whereas the smooth and grass snake are non venomous; which rarely bite and if handled often play dead. Distinguishing between the snakes is therefore important, although any snake can be mistaken for an adder.
Adder: Distinct stripe down its back and a V or X shaped marking on the head. The Adder has red eyes and pupils are slit.
Grass Snake: Yellow/cream/white and black collar around the neck and round pupils.
Smooth Snake: Smooth snake is far more Adder like than the Grass snake, although like a Grass snake it doesn’t have a slit pupil or zigzag pattern along its back. The Smooth snake is also extremely rare and only seen on dry heath land in the Southern counties.
So now we’ve all been enlightened about the three types of snake that we may encounter, keep your eyes peeled when you’re out walking and if you’re very lucky you may spot one……….!