13 COMMON Types of Snakes Found in Israel! (2023)

Do you want to learn about the snakes that live in Israel?

Types of snakes in Israel

If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the most common snakes you can expect to see. Then, 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 Israel 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.

 

Here are 13 COMMON snakes that live in Israel:

 


#1. Jan’s Cliff Racer

  • Platyceps rhodorachis

Also known as Braid Snake, Common Cliff Racer, Desert Racer, and Wadi Racer.

Common Israel snakes
Credit: Barbod Safaei via Wikimedia Commons

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 100-110 cm (39-43 in) long.
  • They are slim-bodied with long, tapered tails.
  • Their coloring is gray or brown; some specimens have a single red line running along their backs from head to tail.

 

This small but speedy snake is native to Israel. It makes its home in dry areas with sparse vegetation, such as semi-deserts and canyons. Lock your doors, or a Jan’s Cliff Racer might wander into your household searching for prey or a place to rest!

 

These reptiles are highly alert and have good vision. Adults chase down small lizards and rodents in the daytime and are even known to raid bird nests. Juvenile racers need smaller prey, such as crickets and other insects.

 

Jan’s Cliff Racers are timid, non-venomous creatures and harmless to humans. If you come across one, it will likely retreat into a crack or crevice. A cornered cliff racer, however, will hiss and strike at potential threats. Watch your toes!

 


#2. Diadem Snake

  • Spalerosophis diadema

Also known as Royal Snake, Diademed Snake.

Common snakes found in Israel

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are fairly slender and can grow to 180 cm (71 in) in length.
  • They are commonly pale and sandy in color with darker spots and blotches and a dark, reddish head.
  • The scales on the head have an iridescent shine, resembling a crown or diadem. This is how the snake got its name!

 

Diadem Snakes in Israel are most at home in sandy deserts and rocky lowlands.

You can find them tucked beneath rocks, roots, or abandoned animal burrows for protection. In deserts, they stay close to oases for easy access to food and water. They are primarily land-dwellers, but they have no trouble climbing trees.

 

Though mostly active in daylight, Diadem Snakes prefer hunting at dusk in the hotter seasons. Their venom is strong enough to kill prey but too weak to harm humans. They have an appetite for lizards, birds, small mammals, and even other snakes!

 

This quick-moving reptile will attempt to flee or thrash around to intimidate predators when danger is afoot. A cornered Diadem Snake can be unpredictably aggressive. Their bites can be painful, so keep your distance.

 


#3. Arabian Horned Viper

  • Cerastes gasperettii

Also known as Gasperetti’s Horned Sand Viper, Horned Viper.

Snakes of Israel

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These small, stout-bodied snakes can grow 30-60 cm (12-24 in) long.
  • Like most vipers, they have flat triangular heads. In addition, most specimens have horn-like scales above their eyes.
  • Their coloring is tan or gray, perfect for blending into the sand. They have white bellies and a series of dark bars along their backs. 

 

Scorching deserts are home to this devilish-looking snake in Israel.

The Arabian Horned Viper is a patient predator, lying in wait beneath the sand with only its eyes protruding. As unwary rodents, beetles, or lizards pass by, this viper strikes with deadly accuracy.

Arabian Horned Vipers are most active at night, escaping the heat like other desert creatures. When the sun is high, they seek shelter in abandoned animal burrows. Early in the day, however, you might find one basking in the morning sun.

 

Listen carefully! These venomous vipers will tell you if you’re straying too close to their territory by hissing loudly. Bite symptoms are serious and include excessive bleeding and convulsions, potentially leading to death. Seek medical assistance at once if you’ve been bitten.

 


#4. Large Whip Snake

  • Dolichophis jugularis

Also known as Fire Snake, Black Whipsnake, Persian Large Whip Snake, Green Whip Snake, and European Whip Snake.

Types of snakes in Israel
Credit (right image): Musa geçit via Wikimedia Commons

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 160-200 cm (63-79 in) long on average.
  • They have small heads and large black eyes with rounded pupils.
  • Their coloring is shiny black with white bellies, and their lips and throats have a reddish tint.

 

The Large Whip Snake frequents open grasslands and meadows in Israel. It enjoys basking in the sun when it’s not looking for food.

 

Despite their size, Large Whip Snakes are agile enough to climb bushes. Their speed proves useful when catching birds, frogs, and other reptiles. Curiously, they will even eat snakes of the same species!

 

These highly alert snakes will flee upon sensing danger. However, a Large Whip Snake can become aggressive and quickly strike if cornered. Its painful bite is laden with mildly toxic saliva, causing numbness and swelling. Thankfully, it doesn’t do more damage than that.

 


#5. Red Whip Snake

  • Platyceps collaris

Also known as Collared Dwarf Racer.

Credit (image left): Benny Trapp, (image right): David~O, via Wikimedia Commons

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 70-100 cm (28-39 in) long.
  • They have slim tapered tails, small flat heads, and large eyes.
  • Their coloring is gray or brown, with a reddish hue on the bottom half of their bodies.

 

Red Whip Snakes are often found in Israel in backyard gardens.

They also frequent oak forests, rocky hills, and coastal plains. They’re common near people, so you might get a surprise visit from this colorful creature! Thankfully, they’re non-venomous.

 

With its incredible agility, this snake prefers to chase rather than ambush prey. But, funnily enough, it may sometimes go after lizards too big for it to swallow. When this happens, the lizard breaks off its tail, and the Red Whip Snake ends up eating that instead.

 

Red Whip Snakes are harmless to humans. However, they’re alert animals that will flee to safety if you try to approach them. They enjoy resting in the shade, especially during hot summers.

 


#6. Palestine Viper

  • Daboia palaestinae

Also known as Palestinian Viper.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow 70-90 cm (28-35 in) long.
  • They are stout-bodied snakes with short, tapered tails, flat heads, and blunt snouts.
  • You can find dark V-shaped markings on the top and on both sides of the head.
  • Their coloring is brown, gray, and olive, with dark bands and zigzags.

 

This highly venomous viper makes its home in forests, hills, marshlands, and coastal plains. Palestine Vipers are nocturnal predators, ambushing rodents, small mammals, birds, and lizards that sleep at night.

The Palestine Viper prefers places where rat populations and water sources are abundant. Unfortunately, these tend also to be places where humans live and farm, and this species is responsible for most of the snake bites in its native range.

 

To steer clear of this snake in Israel, listen carefully for loud hissing noises! Palestine Vipers often loiter on tree branches high above the ground. Thankfully, they aren’t immediately aggressive and prefer to escape if disturbed.

 


#7. Egyptian Sand Snake

  • Psammophis aegyptius

Also known as Sahara Sand Snake.

Credit: Saar Dayag via Wikimedia Commons

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach a maximum length of 150 cm (59 in).
  • Their tails are long and tapered, and they have elongated heads and snouts.
  • Body color is typically light brown or olive with a cream-colored underside.

 

Egyptian Sand Snakes in Israel like staying close to a water source, despite their desert habitat. You’ll likely find them near oases, on the prowl for small rodents, lizards, and migrant birds. They have a mild venom that’s only effective on their prey, so they aren’t dangerous to humans.

 

These reptiles are most active in daylight. Though they’re primarily land-dwelling creatures, Egyptian Sand Snakes are adept at climbing small trees and shrubbery.

 

The Egyptian Sand Snake is timid. If you try approaching one, it will either flee or puff up its throat as a scare tactic. A cornered snake, however, will not hesitate to strike in self-defense. So observe only from a distance!

 


#8. Moila Snake

  • Malpolon moilensis

Also known as False Cobra, Hooded Malpolon, Talheh Snake.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 80-140 cm (31-55 in) on average, but longer specimens reach 190 cm (75 in) long.
  • Their eyes are big and round.
  • You might see a dark blotch crossing their cheeks and jaws.
  • They are light tan or straw in color. There’s a checkered pattern of brown spots across their bodies. Their bellies are paler in contrast.

 

Look for the Moila Snake in Israel near stony deserts and dry shrublands.

It feeds on lizards, gerbils, beetles, and small birds during the day. However, it may adapt to hotter weather by hunting at night.

 

Curiously, the Moila Snake is sought after in the exotic pet trade despite being venomous. However, think twice before you decide to keep this snake as a pet. Some individuals are calm, while others are short-tempered, and Moila Snakes are notoriously volatile. Therefore, only experienced keepers can safely handle them.

 

If threatened, this species will flatten and spread its neck into a hood as a means of intimidation. This behavior is how it earned its other common name, the “False Cobra.” The venom isn’t strong enough to kill a human, but it can cause excruciating pain and swelling.

 


#9. Javelin Sand Boa

  • Eryx jaculus

Also known as Sand Boa.

sand boa

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults can grow up to 80 cm (31.5 in) long.
  • The head has no distinction from the body. A dark stripe runs from the eyes to the neck.
  • Their coloring is cream, beige, and yellow to bright orange with irregular dark blotches on the back and small spots on the sides.

 

Despite their name, these snakes in Israel are not typically found in sandy areas. Instead, the best places for them are savanna-like habitats with loam soil or rocky slopes (if there is enough loose soil).

 

Sand Boas are hard to find 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! Consequently, as the Greeks conquered new territories, they spread this species, and the range of Sand Boas also increased. 🙂

 


#10. Forskal Sand Snake

  • Psammophis schokari

Also known as Schokari Sand Racer and Afro-Asian Sand Snake.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • It is a slender snake about 70-150 cm (28-59 in) long with a tapering tail.
  • The head is flat and elongated, the snout is long, and the eyes are large with rounded pupils.
  • Coloration greatly varies depending on habitat:
    • Morph #1: Light brown with dark stripes, appropriate for densely vegetated areas
    • Morph #2: Light-colored with little to no stripes, a good camouflage for sandy terrain

 

The Forskal Sand Snake is something you might encounter in sandy deserts, shrublands, or oases. It’s an excellent tree climber. However, it also makes its home under rocks and abandoned burrows.

Its other common name, the Schokari Sand Racer, hints at its outstanding speed! Its agility and venom allow it to immobilize lizards, frogs, rodents, and birds quickly. Although most active during the day, it prefers to hunt at night during the hotter months.

 

If you try to approach this mild-mannered snake, it will likely retreat into a nearby hole or bush. Forskal Sand Snakes are harmless to humans. In fact, these little helpers keep the population of vermin like mice and rats in check!

 


#11. Desert Horned Viper

  • Cerastes cerastes

Also known as Saharan Horned Viper, North African Horned Viper, and Greater Cerastes.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-85 cm (12-33 in) long.
  • Their coloring ranges from yellow, gray, pink, and red to brown.
  • This species owes its common name to the pair of horn-like protrusions above its eyes. Also notable are the rectangular blotches along its body.
  • They have heavily keeled or ridged scales that they rub together to make a rasping sound when they feel threatened.

 

While looking for snakes in the Arabian Peninsula, you might find a pattern of strange S-shaped markings in the sand.

If you find this pattern, tread carefully! A Desert Horned Viper might be nearby.

 

This nocturnal viper is an ambush predator. It lies buried in sand, waiting for an opportunity for lunch in the form of lizards and rodents. It bites down, then holds its prey in its jaws until the venom does its work.

 

While there are no known human fatalities from a Desert Horned Viper, its bite can still cause intense swelling and hemorrhage. Seek immediate treatment if you get bitten. This viper is not known for its easy-going nature, so back down and move away slowly if you find yourself in a face-off against one.

 


#12. Tesselated Water Snake

  • Natrix tessellata

Also known as Dice Snake.

dice snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their typical size is 100 – 130 cm (39–51 in) long.
  • Their color varies from grayish green to brownish or almost black, with dark spots on their backs.

 

To find this snake in Israel, it’s best to look in the water!

In fact, the Tessellated Water Snake is a great swimmer and spends much of its time in aquatic habitats. Its primary food is fish, although amphibians are sometimes consumed too.

 

If you ever see underneath a Tesselated Water 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 other common name, the Dice Snake!

 


#13. Asian Racer

  • Hemorrhois nummifer

Also known as Coin-marked Snake and Leaden-colored Racer.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach 100 cm (39 in) long.
  • Their coloring is brown, gray, or olive above and grayish-white on the belly.

 

The Asian Racer is most often found in open, dry woodland in Israel. However, this snake is highly adaptable and makes itself at home in rural and urban areas.

 

Records show that the Asian Racer can appear in heavily human-populated areas and even invades residences! But don’t be too concerned if you find one of these snakes in your house; their mild venom is harmless to humans.

 

Because of its relatively mild venom, this species has had to evolve in other ways to protect itself. For example, it’s very fast on the ground and will flee at the drop of a hat. It also mimics vipers in appearance and behavior, which can intimidate and confuse predators.

 


Do you want to learn about other animals in Israel?

If so, check out these guides!


Which of these snakes have you seen before in Israel?

 

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