Snakes

There are three native snakes species in the UK and you're most likely to see them in the wild, or sometimes in your garden, during the warm weather. There's only one venomous native snake in the UK.

The three native snake species in the UK are:

  • Adder (Vipera berus) - widespread but declining across the UK and the only venomous species
  • Grass snake (Natrix helvetica) - widespread in England and Wales, including gardens
  • Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) - localised to southern English heaths

How to identify the UK snake species

Adder

 have a distinctive zig-zag pattern down their back © RSPCA

The adder has a distinctive zig-zag pattern down their back, with red eyes and a vertical pupil, and can grow to around 70cm. They're the only venomous species of snake in the UK.

Grass snake

Grass snakes are usually an olive green colour © RSPCA

Grass snakes are usually an olive green colour, with large eyes and round pupils and can be over a meter long. They have a distinct collar behind their heads and are also the only native snake species to lay eggs.

Grass snakes are the snakes you'll see in your garden, as they sometimes like to use compost heaps to lay their eggs. A grass snake will have soft leathery eggs.

Smooth snake

Smooth snake

The smooth snake is the least widespread, localised to the south of England and found in heath habitats.

They're the smallest species, growing to only around 55cm in length. They're typically a greyish brown in colour, have a dark stripe down the side of their face, a heart-shaped pattern on their head and a pattern of spots and bars along their back.

How to identify a snake from their shed skin

The shed skin of a snake is known as a 'slough'. If you find a shed snakeskin, you may be able to work out which species of snake they are by looking carefully at the scale patterns.

Slow-worms can be mistaken for snakes

Slow-worms are commonly mistaken as snakes © RSPCASlow-worms (Anguis fragilis) are actually legless lizards and not snakes. They can reach around 45cm and unlike snakes, they have eyelids. They're typically shades of grey or brown, and some males have blue spots.

Found a snake in your garden

If you see a native British snake in your garden or the wild, please leave them undisturbed. You only need to contact us if the snake is injured or wounded.

Escaped pet snake

If you find a non-native species of snake, please keep your distance and call our advice line on 0300 1234 999.

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