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Wildlife Blog: Grass Snake

16th April 2018

The grass snake is the largest and most common species of snake in the UK. A full-grown grass snake can be over one metre in length and some people can find them alarming if they stumble across them whilst out walking. However, they are non-venomous and quite harmless to humans, preying on nothing more than amphibians and small fish.

At this time of year snakes are emerging from their winter hibernation. They may have been hibernating in an animal burrow since early November and on emergence it is not unusual for large numbers of snakes to congregate and bask together – known as ‘lying up’. The snakes will flatten their bodies to maximise the warming of the sun’s rays and contact with other snakes will help with the warming effect. We often receive reports of adders from our parks but none of these scarce snakes are found in Milton Keynes. The cream or yellow ‘collar’ behind the head is the most distinctive feature of the grass snake while adders have a clear zig-zag mark down their backs and are generally much smaller in size. Adders are known from one or two locations in Bedfordshire but are probably extinct in North Bucks.

Mating takes place in late spring and in June the females will lay up to 20 eggs in a rotting tree stump or perhaps even a garden compost heap. The tiny hatchlings emerge in late summer or autumn and will feed on mainly froglets and toadlets.

If you do come across a few snakes in your back garden or local park please just watch from a safe distance. You will soon see that they have nothing more on their mind than basking and will probably crawl away into cover as soon as they see you coming.