Tag Archives: Snakes in Spain

Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima or Zamenis longissimus) Culebra de esculapio

  • Non-Venomous
  • Scientific: Elaphe longissima (Laurenti, 1768) or Zamenis longissimus.
  • English: Aesculapian Snake.
  • Spanish: Culebra de Esculapio.
  • Basque: Eskulapioren sugea.
  • Catalan: Serp d’Esculapi.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: northeastern Spain (mainly areas in or bordering Pyrenees), northern and central France, southern Switzerland, northern and central Italy, western Sardinia, and practically entire Balkans and central eastern Europe from eastern Austria and Slovakia southwards and eastwards, as far as Moldova

The Aesculapian Snake is a species of Elaphe, a genus of snakes traditionally found in Eurasia, northern Africa and North America, although some authorities have now split the genus into smaller groups. Some also consider Elaphe longissima to be a species of Zamenis instead, but the traditional species name looks set to be around for a while yet.

Continue reading Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima or Zamenis longissimus) Culebra de esculapio

Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) Culebra viperina

Non-Venomous and although the name suggest a viper, the viperine snake is not poisionous and like most snakes, avoids human contact when it can.

  • Scientific: Natrix maura.
  • Castilian: Culebra viperina.
  • Catalan: Serp d’aigua.
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-água-viperina.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: Found in southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa. Portugal, Spain, France and northernwest Italy. Also found in African countries of Morocco, northern Algeria, northwestern Libya, and northern to central Tunisia.
Video of a viperine snake

Here´s a short video from Sue at Nature Plus Grazalema of a viperine snake

Continue reading Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) Culebra viperina

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda

  • Venomous (Back fangs and harmless to humans).
  • English: Montpellier Snake.
  • Scientific: Malpolon monspessulanus (Hermann 1804).
  • Castilian: Culebra bastarda.
  • Catalan: Serp-verda.
  • Portuguese: Cobra-rateira.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: Iberia (excluding parts of north), Southern France and selected areas within the Mediterranean basin area.

The Montpellier Snake can reach up to an overall length of 240cm although they average at less than 200cm and this species has the ability to emit a loud and persistent hiss if threatened.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda3
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda Young snake reaering up “cobra” like

One striking feature of its narrow head is its aggressive looking face. This is created by a very pronounced “eye-brow” over a large eye, sometimes further accentuated by a white mark. The eye can sometimes appear orange/red.

They are terrestrial, very agile and active during the day though they can also become crepuscular during the heat of summer.

The colouration of the adults is usually a uniform grey, olive, greenish, blackish or red / brown. There may also be dark or light spots. The belly is often a yellowish shade and blotched with dark markings. The juveniles may be the same as the adult in colour otherwise they have fine dark spots along their flanks and larger irregular marks along the back.

If disturbed or cornered they can raise their heads in a threatening manner as well as hissing, flattening out their neck, so appearing very aggressive. Receiving a venomous bite is very unlikely unless you are handling this snake as the fangs are at the very back of the top jaw whereby it has to have a very good grip of its prey for them to be effective The venom can create symptoms that pass after a few hours including numbness, stiffness, swelling and possibly fever.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda2
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda Juvenile caught in a glass.

They are incredibly adaptable in their habitat type from coastal sand dunes and salt-marshes to mountains of 2,150m altitude. Their preference is for sandy or rocky open terrain with adequate plant cover and rock or log piles for refuge. They may however be seen in agricultural areas, river banks and woodland perimeters.

Part of their ability to live in such a variation of eco-systems is their wide variety of prey items. They will eat mainly lizards (small and even Ocellated, which get quite large), geckos but also small birds, chicks of ground nesting birds, rats, mice, small rabbits and other snakes. Their prey is killed by venom from fangs situated at the back of the jaw, meaning that they need a good grip before this can be effective. The young eat invertebrates.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda4
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda See the white eyestripe?

Breeding takes place between April and June after emerging from hibernation, with males often battling over a mate. Approximately one month later the females lays between 4 to 14 eggs (sometimes up to 20). These may be placed in split tree trunks, under rocks, under dead leaves or in unused burrows of rabbit or bee-eater. They also sometimes use communal areas to deposit their eggs. After about 2 months the hatchlings appear and are 20-36cm in length. They reach sexual maturity at between 3 to 5 years of age.

The males can live for 25 years in the wild whereas the female is shorter lived, perhaps to 15 years.

Similar species: The uniform colouring and size may be taken for a Grass Snake but the details of the face are very distinctive.

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.


Western false smooth snake – Macroprotodon brevis ibericus – Culebra de Cogulla

  • Scientific name: Macroprotodon brevis ibericus (Wade 1988). Recent genetic and morphological studies have concluded that it needed reclassification. Previously = Macroprotodon cucullatus, now = Macroprotodon brevis ibericus See similar species at bottom of page.
  • Spanish: Culebra de Cogulla Occidental.
  • English: False Smooth Snake.
  • French: Couleuvre à capuchon de l’Ouest.
  • German: Kapuzennatter.
  • Italian: Colubro dal cappuccio.
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-capuz.
  • Distribution: South Iberia and Western Morocco (Melilla and Ceuta). In general, it lives in the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula absent is absent from the north.

Venomous – harmless to humans


The Western False smooth snake is the smallest snake of all those found on the Iberian Peninsula, normally 30-35cm and not reaching more than 65cm. The head is distinct from the body and appears flattened. The most recognizable feature is a black line from the eye to the mouth and a big black band on the neck. The body is cylindrical and robust, of a grey colour with small dark markings along the back sometimes forming lines and its sides are speckled with small black ocelli. The scales along the back are completely smooth and shiny.

Western false smooth snake - Macroprotodon brevis ibericus - Culebra de Cogulla
Western false smooth snake – Macroprotodon brevis ibericus – Culebra de Cogulla

This species of snake is active throughout the year. Its activity is primarily crepuscular and nocturnal, during the daytime finding refuge under stones and in natural underground galleries or those it creates itself in many different types of habitats including woodland, scrubland and cultivated areas.

Their main food is lizards and geckos, though also includes Iberian Worm Lizards, young snakes, small rodents and insects. Leaving it’s lair rarely to hunt. it instead waits for prey to pass by close enough for capture.

The courtship extends from March to June, 31 to 52 days after copulation 2-6 eggs are laid in moist sunny areas under stones, logs or among leaf litter and hatching after 50-60 days. Females only breed every 2 years meaning it has a biennial reproduction frequency and a reduced clutch size relative to other snake species in Iberia.

Western false smooth snake - Macroprotodon brevis ibericus - Culebra de Cogulla
Western false smooth snake – Macroprotodon brevis ibericus – Culebra de Cogulla

This snake has venom glands connected to 2 back teeth (opistoglifa). It is harmless to larger animals since the teeth with which it injects venom are at the back of its very small mouth, it would be difficult for it to get a sufficient grip and the venom is of very low toxicity.

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) by the IUCN. Its probable decline is caused by extensive loss of habitat in much of its range due to intensive agriculture and human persecution. The recent proliferation of the wild boar (Sus scrofa) affects it negatively due to its foraging habits lifting and turning stones where the western false smooth snake makes its home.

Similar species

Macroprotodon cucullatus or mauritanicus, commonly known as the false smooth snake is found in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia. (Spain, Balearic islands).

Habits are identical to the Western false smooth snake but a key to differing between the two would be geographic location. Remember that Macroprotodon cucullatusis or mauritanicus is found only on the Balearic islands in Spain (Introduced species).

The western false smooth snake is restricted to the south (much temperate areas of Iberia).

The IUCN has listed the false smooth snake as being of “Least Concern”. This is because it has a wide distribution, a large population, seems to be tolerant of some habitat modification and its population is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify it for listing in a more threatened category

The Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) which has no markings on either sides of the eyes and the dorsal scales are keeled, not smooth and shiny.

Reptiles and amphibians in Spain

Read more about reptiles and amphibians in Spain at the main idex page for species here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/reptiles-and-amphibians/

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.