Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in the United Kingdom?
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 the United Kingdom 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 4 types of snakes that live in the United Kingdom:
#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 the United Kingdom 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 the United Kingdom.
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. 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 the United Kingdom 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.
#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.
Aesculapian Snakes are not native to the United Kingdom.
They were introduced from mainland Europe. Their numbers are not huge in the UK, but they do have a breeding population that can be found in Colwyn Bay in north Wales, Brigend in South Wales, and by the Regent’s Canal in London.
If you visit these areas, 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.
Aesculapian 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.
Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in the United Kingdom?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in the United Kingdom?
Leave a COMMENT below!