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 The Smooth Snake

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PostSubject: The Smooth Snake   Mon Jul 21, 2008 9:17 pm

The Smooth Snake is Britain's rarest reptile, estimated breeding population of 4000, with a currently known though very limited distribution confined to Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex. (West Sussex is after reintroduction).
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The Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) is a non-venomous snake and is exceptionally rare in the British Isles, itís 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.

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PostSubject: Re: The Smooth Snake   Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:53 am

Smooth Snake - Coronella austriaca - Native Identification

Reptile - Non-Venomous Snake
A slender snake, the dorsal surface is usually grey or brownish with a double row of brown or black spots. These spots sometimes appear fused giving a crossbar effect. The flanks may also have a single row of spotting. The back spots can also be joined down the back forming 2 longitudinal stripes down the body. Stripes and bars can also occur for just short parts of the markings with the double row being present as normal on other areas.
Ventral surface is grey, brown, appearing uniform or mottled with white, the sides of the belly are usually whitish. The throat and forepart of the belly usually appear lighter.
Length: Males reach a maximum of 60 cm, females 68 cm in the UK, though adults are smaller in Surrey.

Sexing
Females are slightly larger than males but have shorter tails and are usually uniform silver grey, with distinct spots. Males tend towards browns and reds, the spotting being less marked, the throat and the forepart of the belly is often orange-red.

What else could it be?
Superficially the Smooth Snake resembles the Adder (Vipera berus). However, Smooth Snakes have a smaller head and do not have the thickset body or heavy looking head scalation of a typical Viper such as the Adder. Even in cases where the dorsal spots of the Smooth Snake are fused, the markings do not resemble the zigzag line that is characteristic of Adders.
The scales of the Smooth snake are not keeled (ridged along the centre of the scale) like those of Adders and Grass Snakes, this maybe used to identify a shed skin.
The Smooth Snake may be confused with the Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis), which is a leg-less lizard and not a snake at all. The Slow-worm is a smaller creature (40 - 45cm) with a glassy grey/brown appearance. Slow-worms have very small scales and do not have the double row of dark spots of the Smooth Snake.
Where will I see a Smooth Snake and is it dangerous?
These snakes are extremely rare and cautious, spending much of their time under ground. They are non-venomous and totally harmless.

The Smooth Snake has a restricted distribution in the UK. Now thought to be confined to the South East of Dorset, South West Hampshire and a small area of East Hampshire and West Surrey.
This species is found on dry heath slopes with mature heather and Dwarf Gorse usually south facing, but some near Poole are north slopes, with damp heath at the bottom of the slope. They are also found in stands of Molinia where they live in the tussocks, especially where the Molinia is on fairly level areas with water traveling horizontally under the surface without any surface water, rather than valley bogs that are too damp in winter.
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