Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in Switzerland?
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 Switzerland 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. 🙂
9 types of snakes that live in Switzerland:
#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 Switzerland 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 Switzerland.
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.
Being strong swimmers, look for Grass Snakes near wet areas, such as ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and marshes. But it’s not surprising to find one 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 Switzerland 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 Switzerland, 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. Barred Grass Snake
- Natrix helvetica
- Dark grey-green upper body with characteristic black barring along the flanks.
- A distinctive yellow and black collar around the neck.
- It can grow over a meter (3.3 feet) in length.
Look for this snake in Switzerland 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.
Barred Grass Snake Range Map
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.
Until a few years ago, the Barred Grass Snake (Natrix helvetica) was considered the same species as the Common Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), but a more in-depth study concluded there are enough differences to be considered separate species. Here is how to tell them apart:
- Common Grass Snakes have a bright yellow collar, which Barred Grass Snakes lack.
- Barred Grass Snakes are more grey than their olive green cousin.
#7. Green Whip Snake
- Hierophis viridiflavus
Also called the Western Whip Snake.
- 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 Switzerland!
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
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. 🙂
#8. Asp Viper
- Vipera aspis
Other common names include European Asp, European Viper, Black Asp, Central Italian Asp, and Southern Italian Asp.
- 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 Switzerland, 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
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!
#9. Southern Smooth Snake
- Coronella girondica
- 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 Switzerland 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.
Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in Switzerland?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Switzerland?
- 44 Amazing ANIMALS to see in Switzerland! (ID guide w/ pics)
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