Do you want to learn about the snakes that live in Iraq?
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 Iraq 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.
13 COMMON snakes that live in Iraq:
#1. Jan’s Cliff Racer
- Platyceps rhodorachis
Also known as Braid Snake, Common Cliff Racer, Desert Racer, and Wadi Racer.
- 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 Iraq. 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.
- 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 Iraq 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.
- 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 Iraq.
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.
- 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 Iraq. 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. Spotted Desert Racer
- Platyceps karelini
- Adults grow 65-75 cm (26-30 in) long, but they can reach 90 cm (35 in).
- Females are larger than males.
- These are slender-bodied snakes with large eyes and short snouts.
- Their coloring is grayish-brown with paler undersides and a series of black spots or bars across the body. Some specimens have reddish tails.
Spotted Desert Racers are one of the fastest-moving snakes in Iraq.
It’s not hard to tell how they got their name! Look for this species in arid deserts, steppes, and plains. They’re shy snakes, preferring to slither away quickly if they feel threatened.
This species is smaller and vulnerable to predators, so it often takes shelter in empty animal burrows. Their diets consists mostly of small lizards and mice, but it also includes insects, birds, and bird eggs.
These snakes are non-venomous, and their saliva is only toxic to small prey. Spotted Desert Racers pose no danger to humans, but don’t try to catch one! While usually calm, they can bite if agitated. Bites may cause an itching sensation that can last for hours.
#6. Levantine Viper
- Macrovipera lebetinus
Also known as West-Asian Blunt-nosed Viper, Levantine Adder, Lebanese Viper, Mountain Viper, Coffin Snake.
- Adults grow up to 150 cm (59 in) long.
- They have flat, broad, triangular heads with blunt snouts.
- Their coloring is gray, beige, or khaki, with brown or bluish blotches and stripes along the body.
Levantine Vipers are nocturnal residents of rocky hills, shrublands, and mountain valleys. When the sun is out, you might spot one resting in the shade of trees. In winter, they hibernate in groups to conserve heat, but they hunt alone for the rest of the year.
These vipers are ambush predators that lurk near water sources. Though they move sluggishly, they are deceptively fast when striking. Adults feed on lizards, birds, and rats. Young ones, on the other hand, prefer insects.
Bite incidents from Levantine Vipers are relatively common because they frequent urban areas with dense human populations. Symptoms include abdominal pain and blistering around the bite area. In severe cases, victims can die from internal bleeding. Seek immediate medical assistance if you get bitten.
#7. Glossy-bellied Racer
- Platyceps ventromaculatus
Also known as Spotted Bellied Snake, Spotted Whip Snake, Hardwicke’s Rat Snake, and Gray’s Rat Snake.
- Adults are about 90-120 cm (35-47 in) long.
- They have slender bodies and very long tails that taper off towards the tip, with notably large eyes.
- Their coloring is olive, brown, tan, and yellow. Body markings include dark, jagged bands on the back and spots at the sides.
As you might have guessed from its name, the Glossy-bellied Racer is an amazingly speedy reptile with a shiny yellow belly. This snake uses its speed to hunt lizards, birds, and mice among rocky foothills, open grasslands, and deserts in Iraq.
Although it’s most active during the day, the Glossy-bellied Racer adjusts to a nocturnal life when the weather gets too hot. This snake is as agile in tall bushes as it is on land. Its saliva is toxic and effective against small prey, but thankfully, it’s too mild to harm humans.
The Glossy-bellied Racer often forages for food near agricultural lands and urban settlements. If you find one, there’s no need to feel alarmed. This timid snake will quickly flee and hide.
#8. Moila Snake
- Malpolon moilensis
Also known as False Cobra, Hooded Malpolon, Talheh Snake.
- 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 Iraq 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. Grass Snake
- Natrix natrix
Also known as Ringed Snake or Water Snake.
- Adults can grow up to 150 cm (59 inches) long.
- Coloration is usually olive-green, brown, or gray with 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 Iraq!
Since they are strong swimmers, look for them near wet areas, such as ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and marshes. However, you’re also likely to find a Grass Snake in drier habitats, such as backyard gardens, open woodlands, and grasslands.
They are NOT venomous and rarely bite when captured or threatened. Instead, you can expect them to hiss and spray a smelly substance called musk 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 cobras, where they raise the front of their body and flatten their heads to resemble a hood! They use this mimicry as a way to intimidate predators.
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 instead of killing it first by constriction.
#10. Javelin Sand Boa
- Eryx jaculus
Also known as Sand Boa.
- 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 Iraq 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. 🙂
#11. Forskal Sand Snake
- Psammophis schokari
Also known as Schokari Sand Racer and Afro-Asian Sand Snake.
- 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!
#12. Tesselated Water Snake
- Natrix tessellata
Also known as Dice Snake.
- 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 Iraq, 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.
- 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 Iraq. 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 Iraq?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Iraq?
Leave a COMMENT below!