Believe it or not, you can find 4 types of venomous snakes in Portugal.
But please don’t live in fear, thinking that you are going to be bitten. In general, snakes try to avoid any contact or interaction with people. As long as you leave them alone, you shouldn’t have any trouble!
Did you know that snakes are venomous, NOT poisonous? If you eat something that makes you sick, then it’s considered “poisonous.” If an animal, like a snake, delivers its toxins when it bites, it’s considered “venomous.”
*If you come across any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you could get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*
Here are the 4 kinds of venomous snakes in Portugal!
#1. Western Montpellier Snake
- Malpolon monspessulanus
- 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.
These venomous snakes are not considered a threat in Portugal.
First, the venom is not very dangerous to humans as it has low toxicity when compared to other species. 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, there has never been a death from these venomous snakes, with only a few cases of venom being injected into a person ever being 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.
#2. Seoane’s Viper
- Vipera seoanei
Also known as the Baskian Viper, Iberian Cross Adder, and Portuguese Viper.
- 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.
These snakes are venomous, but the potency of the venom varies across Spain. If bitten, you should seek medical attention immediately. Generally speaking, their venom is not as dangerous as the Asp Viper.
Seoane’s Vipers Range Map
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.
These venomous snakes 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!).
#3. Lataste’s Viper
- Vipera latastei
- 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 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.
Lataste’s Viper Range Map
These venomous snakes are found in southwest Portugal in various habitats and at 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.
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!
#4. Iberian False Smooth Snake
- Macroprotodon brevis
Also called the Western False Smooth Snake.
- 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.
Believe it or not, the Iberian False Smooth Snake is 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.
Iberian False Smooth Snakes can be hard to locate in southwest Portugal 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 their diet.
Iberian False Smooth Snake Range Map
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.
Do you need more help identifying a venomous snake you saw in Portugal?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
Make sure to check out these guides to other animals found in Portugal!
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Portugal?
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