Encountering a snake triggers panic in many people, especially when the animal appears in their own garden. From time to time the reptiles do indeed stray into civilized areas. But are they really dangerous?

identify snake species

In the following, this guide presents the five most common types of snakes in Germany and gives tips on which characteristics gardeners can use to identify different species.

Äskulapnatter (Zamenis longissimus)

  • Body color: green-brown
  • special features: narrow, light head, shiny skin, light spots on the back
  • Body length of the male: up to 180 cm
  • Body length of the female: identical to that of the male
  • toxic: no

The Aesculapian snake can frighten you at first, in the truest sense of the word. This snake, which lives in Germany, is the largest native species. However, it has neither fangs nor does it attack people. Instead of driving them away, it is worth watching the animal with fascination. Their diet includes mice, lizards, birds and eggs from other animals.

Aspisviper (Vipera aspis)

  • Body color: grey-brown
  • special features: black pattern on the back (similar to the adder), stocky body, broad, triangular head, raised tip of the snout
  • Body length of the males: 60 to 90 cm
  • Body length of females: identical to that of males
  • toxic: yes

Anyone who does not suffer from a snake phobia should consider themselves lucky to meet an asp viper in the garden. The endangered species is very rare. Although their poison is even stronger than that of the well-known adder, the animal does not pose a life-threatening danger. It prefers mice and lizards as food.

Kreuzotter (Vipera brush)

  • Body color: black-grey
  • special features: slit-shaped eyes, distinctive zigzag pattern on the back
  • Male body length: up to 90 cm
  • Body length of the female: identical to that of the male
  • toxic: yes

Those who fear snakes have little reason to worry. The adder rarely strays into civilized regions. They prefer to hunt in the undergrowth of forests or in damp meadows.

Note : The adder is a feared guest, but many people overestimate its toxicity. The bite will never kill an adult. However, children and pets are more at risk. To prevent health problems, those who have been bitten should still consult a doctor.

Ringelnatter (Natrix natrix)

  • Body color: dark grey
  • Distinctive features: two yellow, crescent-shaped spots on the neck
  • Male body length: up to 75 cm
  • Body length of the female: up to 1.5 m
  • toxic: no

The grass snake is particularly common in gardens that have ponds or water features. This is where the reptile hopes to find food, since it mainly feeds on amphibians. If the property is near a river, lake or pond, the likelihood of encountering this species of snake in your own garden is all the higher.

Schlingnatter (Coronella austriaca)

  • Body color: grey-brown
  • special features: black patterned back, striped skin around the eyes, slim body
  • Male body length: up to 75 cm
  • Body length of the female: identical to that of the male
  • toxic: no

The smooth snake feeds primarily on small rodents such as mice, insects or other reptiles. The prey animals do not always have to be anatomically inferior to it. With its skilful hunting behavior, it embraces its prey and kills it with a targeted bite. They are most likely to appear in the summer months. The smooth snake feels at home in sunny places.

Note: Although the poisonous adder is much larger and stronger than the smooth snake, if there is no direct comparison, it is difficult to estimate its body size. Because of this, the two types are often confused. The difference can still be seen in the eyes and back pattern. In contrast to the adder, the smooth snake has round pupils and irregular coloring.

Appropriate behavior for a snake in the garden

The population of wild snakes in Germany is falling more and more. Responsible is the increasing development of meadows and fields. Seen from this point of view, humans are the real source of danger when comparing humans and animals. The Nature Conservation Act aims to prevent their disappearance by placing all species under nature protection. For this reason, it is forbidden to catch, injure or even kill the reptiles in order to drive them away. Most species are not poisonous anyway. In addition, they shy away from people, so that it is hardly necessary to take precautions on your own property.

Spotting an exotic venomous snake is a whole different situation. Those affected must immediately inform the public order office about the appearance of the frequently escaping animals. Under no circumstances should you approach the snake and start your own attempt to drive it away.

Animal lovers might even appreciate a snake in the garden. Anyone who observes the animals with fascination encourages their appearance with a rock garden in which the animals find protection from birds of prey and cats in small niches and crevices in the wall. Garden ponds are also popular places of refuge.

Drive snakes out of the garden

Those affected should not try to drive a snake off the property with sticks or other “weapons”. Noise and vibrations often make the sensitive animals flee. Strong appearance is enough for them to take to their heels.

frequently asked Questions

If a reptile meanders through the garden, it is usually lost. A snake would never make itself at home near many people. Except for the grass snake, which is a bit more trusting in this respect, the animals neither nest on the compost nor lay eggs in the garden.

Most of the snakes living here are harmless. Only the bites of the adder and the asp viper transmit toxic substances. However, these species only bite when they feel acutely threatened.

Since native snakes do not pose any particular danger, those affected do not have to report the incident. In particular, because the reptiles shy away from human contact, state authorities do not bother with the expulsion. Anyone encountering a snake on the property must manage themselves. However, the nature conservation association would be happy to receive a reference to the species in order to document the appearance for an inventory.

Although it has all the visual characteristics of a snake, the slow worm (Anguis fragilis) is not a reptile in zoological terms. It is a legless lizard species. Be that as it may, it has a very large occurrence in Germany.

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