Smooth snake fact file
- Common name – smooth snake
- Scientific name – coronella austriaca
- Size – a typical adult will be between 40 and 60cm long
- Identification tips – body colour varies between silvery-grey and a gingery-brown, with a mottled black pattern running the entire length of the body. At first glance, smooth snakes can be confused with adders because of this, but a smooth snake has a more slender build. The top of the head is often a darker shade to the body, and a black stripe running across each eye is often present.
- Preferred habitat – light, sandy heathlands are the preferred choice but smooth snakes will also readily live in areas of dense undergrowth.
- Diet – surprisingly, smooth snakes prey primarily on other snakes and lizards. The rare sand lizard is a favourite, particularly because they share the same habitat. Small mammals, rodents and baby birds are also taken, as are larger insect and frogs. A smooth snake has no venom, but strikes its prey and then subdues it by wrapping its body tightly around the prey before consumption.
- Breeding – mating occurs in late spring, around May, and give birth to up to 15 young in late August/September.
- Other points – smooth snakes are extremely secretive and spend a large proportion of their lives in sandy burrows just beneath the surface. For this reason, it’s very rare to see one – even in habitats where they are known to exist.
The sandy heathlands of the New Forest are an ideal habitat for them, and one of only several places in the UK that they can be found.