The Reptile Diaries: Close encounters with Grass Snakes

People very often get the wrong impression of snakes. From my experience, some can be the most docile creatures I have ever encountered. The gentle grass snake, found here in Britain, is one of those.

After watching Chris Packham, on numerous occasions, picking up grass snakes in the wild and talking so passionately about them, I wanted to know more. We had encountered many grass snakes at RSPB Ynys-Hir last year as well as at Apedale Country Park here in Staffordshire. At the time we were not aware that it is completely safe to pick up a grass snake. Grass snakes do not bite, instead they have several other defence strategies:

  • They emit a foul smelling liquid, known as ‘venting.’ They can aim and spray this at a predator. Make sure a change of clothes is at hand; several laundry washes may be needed afterwards.
  • They can ‘play dead.’ This is something I have yet to experience myself.
  • They flatten their heads in order to appear venemous, which they are not.
  • They may hiss to warn off predators.

We were lucky enough to find a grass snake underneath a piece of corrugated bitumen. It was a fairly cloudy day so grass snakes gather warmth underneath corrugated material such as this. On sunnier days they can be found basking in the open.

It has been a dream of mine to hold a grass snake. They are not slimy, which is the common belief, but smooth and warm to the touch. They require very little strength to hold as they easily glide through the hands. Nothing can encourage you to love an animal more than a close encounter such as this. My husband and I were completely in our element.

Perfect grass snake habitat…

grass snake territory

The gentle ‘grass snake’

grass snake3grass snake4grass snake 2grass snakegrass snake5grass snake6

This video footage shows their gentle nature…

 

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