The 13 Types of Snakes That Live in Spain! (ID Guide)

Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in Spain?

Types of snakes in Spain

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 Spain 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 13 types of snakes that live in Spain:

 


#1. Smooth Snake

  • Coronella austriaca

Common Spain snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Spain 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!

 


#2. Aesculapian Snake

  • Zamenis longissimus

Common snakes found in Spain

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Spain 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.

 


#3. Green Whip Snake

  • Hierophis viridiflavus

Snakes of Spain

Also called the Western Whip Snake.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A slender snake with a small but well-defined head.
  • They are greenish-yellow with heavy, irregular bands of dark green or black, which fade as you move towards the back.
  • Maximum size is around 150 cm (59 in).

 

Due to their adaptability, this snake is common in Spain!

 

You can find Green Whip Snakes in a wide variety of habitats, including trees, since they are great climbers. In addition, they will eat almost anything, including reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and small birds and eggs.

Green Whip Snake Range Map

green whip snake range map

When threatened, these snakes can become quite aggressive. Be careful as they will try to strike you repeatedly. Luckily, they are not venomous, but they do bite fairly hard. 🙂

 


#4. Viperine Snake

  • Natrix maura

Types of snakes in Spain

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Colors range between gray, brown, or reddish.
  • Down its back, look for a black, zig-zag stripe. Along the sides are black circles.
  • Adults can grow to 85 cm (33.5 in).

 

Despite its name, Viperine Snakes are NOT venomous. But they do share many behavioral similarities with Adders (which ARE venomous), along with looking alike, which is how they got their name.

Viperine Snake Range Map

viperine snake range map

To find this snake in Spain, you must head to an aquatic habitat as they are water snakes. They are strong swimmers and primarily hunt and eat fish and frogs.

 

While Viperine Snakes are fairly common, they are sensitive to changes and pollution in their wetland habitats. In addition, they are often killed by people who mistake them for being a venomous viper.

 


#5. Asp Viper

  • Vipera aspis

asp viper

Other common names include European Asp, European Viper, Black Asp, Central Italian Asp, and Southern Italian Asp.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Fairly small, as adults only average a length of 60-65 cm (23.5 – 25.5 inches).
  • The head is broad, triangular, and distinct from the neck. The tip of the snout is slightly upturned.
  • Colors range from light grey to brown to various shades of orange. Some individuals are melanistic and completely black!
  • They have darker marks on their back, which form an irregular zig-zag pattern.

 

Be careful if you find this snake in Spain, as it is VENOMOUS.

 

Bites from the Asp Viper are both painful and dangerous, with about 4% of untreated bites being fatal. If bitten, go to the hospital immediately, as the venom has both coagulant and anticoagulant effects. Severe hemorrhagic necrosis occurs after a few hours, along with impaired vision due to the degradation of blood vessels and blood around the eyes.

Asp Viper Range Map

asp viper range map

According to the IUCN Red List, populations of the Asp Viper are stable, and it’s not currently threatened. These snakes live in a broad range of habitats and have a wide distribution. In general, look for them in areas with plenty of sun, vegetation for cover, and dry soil.

 

While we will never know for sure, many people think that the Asp Viper was the type of snake that bit and killed the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra!

 


#6. Western Montpellier Snake

  • Malpolon monspessulanus

western montpillier snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 followed by a bluish or dark grey “saddle” on the back.

 

Despite being venomous, these snakes are not considered a threat to humans in Spain.

 

First, the venom has low toxicity and is not very dangerous. Second, when they feel threatened, Western 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!

Western 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.

 

Western 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.

 


#7. Ladder Snake

  • Zamenis scalaris

ladder snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A medium-sized snake that reaches up to 160 cm long (63 in).
  • Color ranges from yellowish to dark brown, with two darker stripes running down the length of the body from neck to tail.
  • Pointed snout. Dark eyes.

 

Naturally, Ladder Snakes are fairly abundant in Spain in areas with scrubby, brushy cover with lots of sunshine. They have adapted well to human environments and are often seen living in orchards, vineyards, and overgrown stone walls. Look for them hiding inside rodent burrows, hollow trees, or piles of stones.

Ladder Snake Range Map

Being a “rat snake,” most of their diet comprises small mammals, such as mice, rabbits, and shrews. Although they also prey on birds and are known to climb to search for nests.

 

When threatened, Ladder Snakes are aggressive and become very defensive. You can expect them to hiss and lunge forward with their mouths open. If you decide to continue to pick them up, expect them to bite repeatedly, in addition to releasing a smelly odor on you.

 


#8. Southern Smooth Snake

  • Coronella girondica

southern smooth snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A small, round-bodied snake that grows between 50 cm to 80 cm (19 – 32 in) long.
  • They are brown or grayish, with blackish bars or spots running down their back.
  • The rear of the head is a dark U-shaped mark or a pair of dark elongate spots.
  • Very similar to the Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca).

 

Look for this snake in Spain living in dry, rocky open spaces. Rocky hillsides, stone walls, quarries, and the edges of open woodlands and hedgerows offer lots of hiding places for Southern Smooth Snakes.

Southern Smooth Snake Range Map

This small snake is discrete and hard to find. In addition, they are mainly active at night. And if you do come across a Southern Smooth Snake, they are harmless and rarely bite. The worst thing they will probably do is release a smelly substance onto your hand.

 

They primarily eat small lizards and hunt for them by actively searching in their shelters. In contrast to the Smooth Snake, they lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.

 


#9. Horseshoe Whip Snake

  • Hemorrhois hippocrepis

horseshoe whip snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Usually grows to around 160 cm (62 in) in length.
  • Yellow, beige, olive, or grey. They get darker with age.
  • A row of round dark spots on the back. Smaller dark patches on each side.
  • Dark horseshoe-shaped marking on the neck and a dark band between the eyes.

 

Look for Horseshoe Whip Snakes in southwest Spain in dry, rocky, sunny areas with open vegetation. They are also sometimes found in urban areas and rural gardens, especially near stone walls.

Horseshoe Whip Snake Range Map

These snakes are incredibly agile and fast-moving. So it should be no surprise that they actively hunt their prey, which includes small mammals, lizards, birds, and invertebrates.

 

Horseshoe Whip Snakes are shy and usually run away quickly at the first sign of danger. This wariness, combined with their fast speed, means getting a good look at one can be hard. If they do become cornered and can’t escape, they will flatten their head, hiss loudly, and bite readily!

 


#10. Seoane’s Viper

  • Vipera seoanei

seoanes viper

Also known as the Baskian viper, Iberian Cross Adder, and Portuguese Viper.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically measure between 50 – 60 cm (19.5 – 23.5 in) in length.
  • They are highly variable in appearance. Individuals are usually beige, grey, or reddish.
  • Their backs are typically light with a contrasting darker zigzag or straight stripe.
  • Lacks the upturned snout of other similar venomous viper species.

 

Seoane’s Vipers like moist, warm habitats and are found in forest clearings and the edges of meadows that have lots of vegetation. Stone walls are also great places for them to hide inside.

Seoane’s Vipers Range Map

These snakes are venomous, but the potency of the venom varies across Spain. If bitten, you should seek medical attention immediately, but in general, their venom is not as dangerous as the Asp Viper.

 

Seoane’s Vipers mainly feed on small mammals that they ambush. But if needed, they will pursue their prey into their burrow (I would not want to be that mouse!).

 


#11. Lataste’s Viper

  • Vipera latastei

lataste viper

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Normally grows to around 60 cm (23.5 in) long.
  • Light to dark brown, beige or light silver to dark grey. A darker zigzagging stripe on their back.
  • Unmistakable in its range due to the distinct upturned horn on the snout.

 

Lataste’s Vipers are found in southwest Spain in many habitats, including different elevations. For example, they live in coastal dunes with Umbrella Pines, open deciduous forests, rocky areas with stone walls, and also on sunny rocky slopes in the Sierra Nevada.

Lataste’s Viper Range Map

 

The best place to find one is typically under a rock, regardless of whether it is day or night. Some scientists think that the yellow tip of their tail is used to lure prey!

lataste yellow tail

Lataste’s Vipers are venomous, and their venom is cytotoxic and quite potent. But luckily, it has enzymes that are more effective on mice than on humans. As a result, bites are rarely fatal to people, but you can still expect swelling, internal hemorrhaging, and sometimes necrosis. Medical treatment should always be sought if bitten.

 


#12. Iberian False Smooth Snake

  • Macroprotodon brevis

iberian false smooth snake

Also called the Western False Smooth Snake.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • The average size of adults is 65 cm (25.5 in).
  • Fairly slender snake. They are pale grey or brown with a row of dark blotches on their back.
  • Look for a dark grey or brown color over the neck and a dark streak under the eye.

 

These snakes do best in warm weather and are typically found in sandy soil around loose rocks or large boulders. But they are also known to frequent dunes, orchards, and pine forests.

 

Iberian False Smooth Snakes can be hard to locate in southwest Spain because they are completely nocturnal and crepuscular. They come out at night to hunt on the ground for geckos, lizards, and worm lizards. Interestingly, worm lizards make up about half its diet.

Iberian False Smooth Snake Range Map

You might not guess it, but Iberian False Smooth Snakes are venomous! They are considered opisthoglyphous, which means that the rear teeth in the upper jaw have been modified as fangs. Since their fangs are at the very back of their mouth, it’s almost impossible for them to inject venom into a human. In addition, their mouth is too small, and the toxicity of the venom is too low to cause any damage to a person.

 


#13. Iberian Grass Snake

  • Natrix astreptophora

iberian grass snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Juveniles have a white and black collar and other body markings.
  • Adults lack the collar and are uniformly olive-green, grey, or brown. The iris is usually vivid orange!
  • It can grow over a meter (3.3 feet) in length.

 

Look for this snake in Spain living near water!

 

Barred Grass Snakes are active when searching for food, using their sight and sense of smell to find their prey, which is primarily frogs, toads, and salamanders. These amphibians are eaten live without the aid of constriction.

 

While these common snakes are not venomous and rarely bite, I would caution against picking one up as they have some interesting defense mechanisms. First, you may smell a nasty garlic odor from a fluid released through their anus. Or you may notice blood secreting out of their mouth and nose. And if that’s not enough, then the individual snake may regurgitate what they have been eating onto you. Hissing and striking without opening their mouth are also common.


Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in Spain?

 

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 Spain?

 

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