The 14 Types of Snakes That Live in Bulgaria! (ID Guide)
Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in Bulgaria?
If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the snakes you can expect to see. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
You’ll see that the snakes that live in Bulgaria are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people. My guess is that you have seen at least one of the snakes below in your yard. 🙂
Here are the 14 types of snakes that live in Bulgaria:
#1. Smooth Snake
- Coronella austriaca
- Adults grow between 60 cm – 75 cm (23.5 – 29.5 inches) long.
- On the top of the head is a dark marking which is often in the shape of a crown.
- Usually dark brown or gray in color. Two rows of indistinct dark spots run down its back.
- As the name suggests, the scales of Smooth Snakes are very smooth and flat to the touch.
These small and slender snakes can be hard to find in Bulgaria because they are secretive.
Even when Smooth Snakes bask in the sun, they intertwine amongst plants to keep camouflaged. They are sometimes found after rain showers when individuals must leave their hiding places to escape the water and bask more openly.
Smooth Snake Range Map
Their primary prey is other reptiles, such as small lizards. But they will eat small mammals and birds occasionally. When threatened, they try to remain motionless and undetected, but Smooth Snakes won’t hesitate to bite when captured.
Interestingly, Smooth Snakes are ovoviviparous. This term means that the eggs are incubated internally, giving birth to live young!
- Vipera berus
Also known as the Common European Adder / Viper.
- Adults average around 55 cm (22 in) long.
- Color varies and can be brown, red, or light grey with a zigzag stripe on the back. But some individuals are entirely black.
- The head is fairly large and distinct and has a distinctive dark V or X on the back.
Despite being venomous, Adders are not considered an incredibly dangerous snake in Bulgaria.
Luckily, they are not very aggressive and rarely bite unless stepped on, picked up, or provoked. If you are bitten, their venom is quite painful and causes swelling, internal hemorrhaging, and necrosis. While the venom can be lethal, deaths are incredibly rare.
Adder Range Map
Adders are found in many habitats, such as forest clearings, marshlands, heathlands, pastures with hedgerows, and even alpine meadows in the Alps. They mostly eat small mammals, but lizards, birds, and frogs are taken when available.
Because of their large distribution and a broad range of habitats, the population of Adders is currently not threatened. But their numbers are decreasing slightly due to habitat loss for agriculture and collecting them for the pet trade and venom extraction.
#3. Grass Snake
- Natrix natrix
Also commonly called the Ringed Snake or Water Snake.
- Adults can grow up to 150 cm (59 inches) long.
- Coloration is usually olive-green, brown, or greyish.
- Rows of black spots on the back and a row of black bars or spots on the sides.
- They have a characteristic black-bordered yellow collar behind the head.
This species is one of the most common snakes in Bulgaria!
Being strong swimmers, look for them near wet areas, such as ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and marshes. But it’s not surprising to find a Grass Snake in drier habitats, such as backyard gardens, open woodlands, and grasslands.
Grass Snake Range Map
They are NOT venomous and rarely bite when captured or threatened. Instead, you can expect them to hiss and spray a smelly substance from their anal glands. If this doesn’t work, they may pretend to be dead, flipping over and letting their tongue hang out of their mouth. Interestingly, Grass Snakes sometimes act like a cobra, where they raise the front of their body and flatten their heads to resemble a hood!
Grass Snakes mostly eat amphibians, such as frogs and toads. They are not ambush predators and actively search for their prey using their keen eyesight and sense of smell. In addition, they eat their prey alive without the use of constriction.
#4. Aesculapian Snake
- Zamenis longissimus
- A long and slender snake that grows up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length.
- It is typically a dark bronze color with very smooth scales, which give it a metallic sheen. But adults can also be olive-yellow, brownish-green, or almost black.
- White freckles appear on the body of many individuals.
The best place to look for Aesculapian Snakes in Bulgaria is humid forests.
Make sure to look up because they are excellent climbers, having no problem ascending vertical tree trunks without branches. They don’t try to avoid humans, and they are sometimes found in sheds, gardens, and stonewalls.
Aesculapian Snake Range Map
Their main food source comes from small rodents, but they will eat birds and their eggs when given the chance. Being constrictors, they suffocate their prey before consuming it.
Despite being fairly common, Aescuplapian Snakes are rarely seen due to their secretive nature. They blend in well with their surroundings, in addition to spending lots of their time in tree canopies. When they are found, they first try to sneak away to hide instead of standing their ground aggressively like other types of snakes.
#5. Dice Snake
- Natrix tessellata
- Their typical size is 100 – 130 cm (39–51 in) long.
- Their color varies from greyish green to brownish or almost black, with dark spots on the back.
To find this snake in Bulgaria, it’s best to look in the water!
In fact, the Dice Snake is such a great swimmer and spends so much time in aquatic habitats, it’s also commonly called the Tessellated Water Snake. In addition, its primary food is fish, although amphibians are sometimes consumed too.
Dice Snake Range Map
If you ever see underneath a Dice Snake, the belly is sometimes colored vividly in yellow or orange, with black spots. The pattern is very similar to dice, which is how they got their name!
#6. Four-lined Snake
- Elaphe quatuorlineata
- As the name suggests, they have four dark stripes running along a yellowish brown body.
- A black line runs from the corner of the eye.
- Adults can reach lengths of 180 cm (5 ft 11 in).
Four-lined Snakes are one of the largest snakes found in Bulgaria!
Not only are they long, but they are also heavy, as individuals can weigh anywhere between 250 to 1,400 g (0.6 to 3.1 lb). The best places to find them are areas with lots of vegetation, such as meadows, edges of deciduous forests, and scrubby areas around swamps and lakes. Four-lined Snakes are also excellent climbers, so make sure to look up!
Four-lined Snake Range Map
Despite their large size, these slow-moving snakes are normally calm. They rarely bite, even when handled.
#7. Nose-horned Viper
- Vipera ammodytes
Also commonly called Horned Viper, Long-nosed Viper, Nose-horned Viper, and Sand Viper.
- The average total length is 50–70 cm (19.5–27.5 in), but some individuals grow larger.
- Colors vary (silver-grey, beige, red, brown, dark grey), but there is almost always a dark zigzag on the back.
- Often a row of round dots on the sides.
This species is the most dangerous snake in Bulgaria!
First, their venom is highly toxic, with both neurotoxic and cytotoxic components that cause swelling and severe pain. In addition, they have LONG fangs (~13mm / .5 in) to deliver their potentially lethal venom. Luckily, they are not easily agitated and typically only bite when handled or accidentally stepped on.
Nose-horned Viper Range Map
As the name suggests, Nose-horned Vipers have a distinctive single “horn” on the snout. This feature makes them easy to identify. Look for them near rocks and stones, including stone walls, that provide some cover from vegetation.
Interestingly, unlike most snakes, males and females look slightly different. First, females usually have more brownish or reddish shades, with males being more greyish. Second, females normally lack the dark blotch or V marking on the back of the head that the males have.
#8. Leopard Snake
- Zamenis situla
Also commonly called the European Ratsnake.
- Morph #1: Gray or tan with a series of reddish or brown blotches down the back, which are outlined in black (pictured above).
- Morph #2: Longitudinal lines decorate the back instead of blotches.
- There is usually a Y-shaped marking on the back of the head. Also, a black streak from the corner of the mouth extends towards the edge of the eye.
- Typically grows to around 90 cm (35.5 in) in length, but some individuals grow even larger.
Look for Leopard Snakes in fairly dry, stony habitats. It’s also common for them to live near human-altered environments, such as vineyards and olive groves that include stone walls or old ruins. To find one of these snakes, you will probably need to uncover them from underneath natural and man-made objects.
Leopard Snake Range Map
As their other name suggests (European Ratsnake), mice form a major part of their diet. Before consuming, they kill their prey using constriction.
Leopard Snakes are typically calm. They may rattle their tail at you when they feel threatened, but they don’t bite often.
#9. Caspian Whipsnake
- Dolichophis caspius
- A large, strong snake that grows up to 200 cm / 79 in.
- They are silver-grey to beige-brown.
- Poorly defined, longitudinal lines along the body.
This species is the LONGEST snake in Bulgaria!
While the average Caspian Whipsnake grows to around 140-160 cm (55-63 in), the record individual was around 250 cm (98 in) in length! Look for them during the day in a wide variety of warm and sunny habitats.
Not only are they long, but Caspian Whipsnakes are also fast and actively hunt their prey, which includes small mammals, birds, and reptiles. In addition, they are valued by farmers as natural pest control for their ability to eat large numbers of rodents.
Luckily, these snakes are not venomous because they are VERY aggressive. When they feel threatened, they raise their body while hissing loudly, and they may even jump toward you. And be careful if you handle one because they will bite quickly and readily.
#10. Dahl’s Whip Snake
- Platyceps najadum
- A VERY slender snake that grows up to 120 cm / 47 in long.
- The head and first quarter of the body are usually grey with round, black circles on the sides that decrease in size.
- The rest of the body is a uniform beige-brown.
Dahl’s Whip Snake can be found in Bulgaria in dry, stony habitats with low vegetation.
They are also seen in cultivated areas, such as olive groves and vineyards, especially if they have stone walls. These snakes are extremely fast and actively hunt lizards. The best time to find one is during the day, except when it gets very hot, then they become more active in the morning or evening.
Interestingly, Dahl’s Whip Snakes are not considered a venomous species because they don’t have fangs. BUT, if you are bitten, you may experience poisoning symptoms if the skin is penetrated and their saliva has time to work its way into the wound! Humans typically experience swelling near the bite, but some individuals even have lymph node swelling.
#11. Meadow Viper
- Vipera ursinii
- Adults average 40–50 cm (15.75–19.69 inches) in total length.
- They are gray, tan, or yellowish with a dark wavy dorsal stripe, which is edged with black.
- The snout is NOT upturned, like the Asp Viper.
These snakes are considered a very RARE species in Bulgaria!
In fact, they are in danger of going extinct, with only a few scattered populations remaining. Their main threats include habitat destruction due to agriculture and climate change in mountain areas, which is where many of them are found.
Meadow Viper Range Map
Meadow Vipers are among the smallest venomous vipers on the continent. But despite their size, they are incredibly feisty when they feel threatened. So you can expect an upset snake to hiss and strike in defense.
Luckily, their venom is probably the least dangerous of the European vipers, although the bite can still be painful and cause internal hemorrhaging.
#12. Sand Boa
- Eryx jaculus
Also known as the Javelin Sand Boa.
- It can grow as large as 80 cm (31.5 in).
- The head has no distinction from the body. A dark stripe runs from the eyes to the neck.
- Coloration is cream, beige, and yellow to bright orange. Has irregular dark blotches on the back and small spots on the sides.
Despite their name, these snakes are not typically found in Bulgaria in sandy areas. Instead, the best places for them are in savanna-like habitats with loam soil or rocky slopes (if there is enough loose soil).
Sand Boa Range Map
Sand Boas are hard to see because they are nocturnal and spend most of their life underground. They don’t come out to bask in the sun but instead get warm by basking just under fallen leaves, stones, or the surface of loose soil. They rarely bite when handled and typically act sluggish.
These snakes have an interesting role in history. To cause confusion and fear during naval battles, they were shot by the ancient Greeks at their enemies! And as the Greeks conquered new territories, the range of Sand Boas also increased. 🙂
#13. Blotched Snake
- Elaphe sauromates
Also called the East Four-lined Ratsnake.
- The average adult length is 120 cm to 160 cm (47 – 63 inches). But some individuals have approached 250 cm (98 inches).
- Yellowish body. Faded dark blotches run down the body.
- A dark line runs from the eye towards the back of their mouth.
The Blotched Snake is found in eastern Europe in open lowland areas, such as river valleys, open deciduous forests, and dry grassy plains.
These snakes are large but also aggressive when captured. So if you try to handle one, you can expect to be bitten.
#14. Eastern Montpellier Snake
- Malpolon insignitus
- Quite large and can grow to be up to 2 meters long (6.5 feet) and weigh 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)!
- Large prominent eyes with a distinct “eyebrow,” which is a ridge above their eye.
- The body is a uniform yellowish, grey, or olive, often with dark stripes or rows of white dashes.
Despite being venomous, these snakes are not a threat to humans in Bulgaria.
First, the venom has low toxicity and is not very dangerous. Second, when they feel threatened, Eastern Montpellier Snakes typically slither away quickly. And if they can’t get away, they first try to scare you away by hissing repeatedly, then raising the front of their body and expanding their neck, just like a cobra!
Eastern Montpellier Snake Range Map
Lastly, since the fangs are positioned toward the back of the mouth, it’s unlikely any venom would be released during a bite. In fact, only a few cases of venom being injected into a person have ever been reported.
Eastern Montpellier Snakes adapt to the presence of humans quite well and are common, despite their large size. Look for them in a wide range of habitats. Their main prey includes lizards, so they are often found in dry areas where lizards like to inhabit.
Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in Bulgaria?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
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Which of these snakes have you seen before in Bulgaria?
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