Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Grass snakes are found throughout England and Wales, but along with our other native species of snakes and lizards, are declining and are listed on the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).

Grass snakes are also protected by law in Great Britain such that it is illegal to deliberately kill, injure or sell them.

grass snake swimming cropped copyright Liz Fever

Grass snake swimming in garden pond – copyright Liz Fever

Despite its fearsome appearance this beautiful and non venomous snake, is extremely timid and will disappear rapildly if you disturb it. However, they like to come to garden ponds, particularly during the summer months, perhaps hunting for fish and amphibians which are a favourite food. They can swim well, so if you are lucky, and quiet, you may spot one.

Identification

Britain’s longest snake, growing to a metre, and sometimes more, in length. Grass Snakes are usually grey-green in colour, with a distinctive yellow to orange-red and black collar around the neck, and black markings down the sides of the body.

Lifecycle

Grass snakes are Britain’s only egg-laying snake. The females lay up to around 40 off-white, leathery eggs in June or July, in warm places and preferably rotting vegetation – including garden compost heaps. The eggs hatch into miniature versions of the adults in the late summer months.

grass-snake-eating-great-crested-newt-by-neil-phillips

Grass snake eating a Great crested newt by Neil Phillips

Sometimes they like to snack on other endangered freshwater species such as this unfortunate great crested newt (photo copyright Neil Phillips).

Grass snake swimming - copyright Matt Ldoge

Grass snake swimming – copyright Matt Ldoge