Smooth snake

Coronelía austriaca

SUBFAMILY

Colubrinae

TAXONOMY

Coronelía austriaca Laurenti, 1768. Three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Couleuvre lisse; German: Glattnatter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Adults reach about 24 in (60 cm) in length. This is a shiny, grayish or reddish brown snake with ill-defined, paired blotches down the back.

DISTRIBUTION

Europe (including southern England) and western Asia, from Scandinavia to northern Spain and east to Kazakhstan and northern Iran.

HABITAT

Fairly dry, open, rocky habitats are favored, including stone walls. In England this species favors heathlands, finding shelter under rocks and logs.

BEHAVIOR

The smooth snake forages diurnally. FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This snake feeds primarily on lizards, but other small vertebrates are also taken. The prey is constricted.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This species is viviparous, giving birth to about four to 15 young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Numbers reportedly have declined greatly in England and elsewhere in its European range. Although not listed by the IUCN, the species is fully protected in Europe, being listed in Appendix II of the Bern Convention of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and on Annex IV of the European Union Habitat and Species Directive.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The smooth snake is apparently a sensitive indicator of the health of heathlands in southern England. ♦

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