Facts about the grass snake

Brun snok

 

Appearance and general information

  • The grass snake can reach 6 feet in length and is one of the largest species in Europe.
  • It is non-venomous and easily recognised by having two yellow spots on the neck.
  • The body colour varies from black to grey and olive green.
  • The grass snake is the only egg-laying species of snake in northern Europe.
  • Grass snakes are active during the day. Especially on hot and sunny days.

 

Distribution

The grass snake has a wide range stretching from North Africa throughout mainland Europe and England, and north into Scandinavia. In Sweden, over the southern and central parts of the country and along the coast up to the city of Sundsvall.

 

Habitat and diet

Grass snakes usually live near water where they forage for amphibians and fish. Like other reptiles, grass snakes bask in the sun to elevate their body temperature. Grass snakes hibernate in burrows underground. For example, under rocky slopes and inside Viking burial mounds.

 

Reproduction

Mating takes place in April and May. In early July, females lay between six and thirty eggs. Usually, they choose a dunghill or compost to take advantage of the heat generated in these environments. The temperature of the nest determines how long it takes for the eggs to hatch. The hatchlings are about 15-20 cm long and look similar to adults.

 

The grass snake is a protected species

Grass snakes are protected in Sweden and many other European countries. This means that it is forbidden to harm or kill them. Capturing and keeping grass snakes require special permits.

Grass snakes are protected by law in Sweden.

 

How about smooth snakes?

Smooth snakes are light brown with two rows of dark spots along the back. In Sweden they are found mostly in southern and central parts of the country (north to the Stockholm area). They are secretive and relatively rare. Smooth snakes are probably more common on the island of Öland and on the West Coast than in other areas. If you see a snake in Sweden, it’s probably a grass snake or a viper.

See FAQs for more information about snakes; how you can tell a grass snake from a viper.

This post is also available in: Swedish