The smooth snake

The snake's slow and meandering movement shatters the silence and stilness of the rocky soil. A light breeze gently caresses the rocks before transforming into a mysterious whistling sound that disappears into the valley. Noiselessly, a smooth snake winds its way through this rugged landscape. The iridiscent irises of the snake are spellbinding, intriguing. It's smooth and shiny body slowly slides and sidles through the grass. Anyone lucky enough to spot a smooth snake is inevitably surprised by its discreet presence, appearance and gestures...

A small Belgian snake

The smooth snake is a small grass snake that – among other countries - lives in Belgium. It is often mistaken for an adder. Nonetheless, you can easily recognize the smooth snake by its dark eye stripe that runs from the eyes to the nostril, along the side of the head and, the black, crescent-shaped collar on its neck. Contrary to our other indigenous snakes, it has scales that are smooth and flat, which gives them a shiny, glossy aspect.

The smooth snake is very secretive and timid animal, that will freeze as soon as it is disturbed. Because of its extremely slow movements, it is very hard to spot. It is a non-venomous snake, so it does not use its fangs to inject venom into its prey, but will nonetheless bite when it feels threatened. The smooth snake is not a threat to humans. Despite the fact that is harmless, humans still tend to deliberately kill smooth snakes because of their long-standing and deep-rooted fear of snakes of all kinds. In Wallonia, the smooth snake population is dwindling, partly because of the railway overhaul which causes the destruction of its habitat (the grass snake often lives nearby railways).

Discreet and harmless

Reproduction

The smooth snake's breeding period starts in April. The mating is preceded by violent fights between the male snakes. The species is ovoviviparous. The female lays egg sacks, which the young break through with their heads only a couple of minutes after being born. At birth, they measure 12 to 14 cm.

Did you know that?

The smooth snakes hibernates, which means it spends the winter sheltered from the cold weather. Circa mid-October, the snake retreats into its frost-free shelter, which it will only leave when the temperature outside is milder, around the end of March/beginning of April.

The Domain of the Caves of Han offers a temporary shelter to smooth snakes that have been impacted by the destruction of their habitat owing to the railway works. They are cared for in our reptile rescue centre and even reproduce here before being progressively released back into the wild, in environments which are conducive to their survival.

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