British Snakes - The Smooth Snake
The Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) is a non-venomous snake and is exceptionally rare in the British Isles, it’s sightings are not helped by the fact that it is easily mistaken with the adder at a glance, although it does not have the same distinct solid zigzag appearance on its back.
The smooth snake is confined to the Southern Counties of England as it generally feeds on lizards that are unable to live further north. Because of this the species is under threat with an estimated population of around 3,500 snakes in the UK, although the figure could be higher due to the snakes shyness. They are however more widespread in Southern Europe and parts of Asia.
Like the other British snakes, the smooth snake hibernates between October to early Spring, often huddling together with other snakes. As soon as the sun is out in Spring and they are able to replenish their energy they mate, with the females giving birth to between 5 and 15 young after a gestation period of around 90 days.
Smooth snakes feed mostly on lizards and other reptiles, including small snakes such as young adders and grass snakes. This liking for other cold-blooded creatures means they can never be found in the cooler regions of the UK. They do however take small mammals such as mice, voles and shrews. They kill their prey by stealth, then speed. Grabbing with their mouth and then using the body in a similar way to a constrictor to squeeze the energy out of the prey before eating it alive. Smooth snakes use this method because they lack the venom to to subdue prey with a solitary bite.
Whilst the smooth snake is a difficult animal to find on a national level, locally in their pockets of population they can be found on a regular basis during the correct time of year. Mid-Spring is a good time as the males will be looking for mates and may be very active during the day, occasionally fighting to secure the rights to a female.