We found a grass snake in our garden pond yesterday. This is a non-venomous snake you can find here in Germany, generally in Europe from Scandinavia to southern Italy but I learned that you can find them in the Middle East and northwestern Africa as well.
The binomial name is “Natrix natrix”, the English name is grass snake but sometimes also called water snake or ringed snake, the last name is similar to the German name, because we call this snake Ringelnatter and that means ringed snake. The German name comes from the necklace pattern behind the head.
The snake was probably searching for prey in the pond as we have amphibians like frogs there. The grass snake likes to eat amphibians but has problems to catch fishes, but they do seek for handicapped fishes and they do also eat smaller mammals. The ringed snake does grow to 1 meter in size but in some cases even 2 meters.
We have several snakes in Germany but the ringed snake is the most common snake you can find here, however, they are on the red list of endangered animals. The basic colors usually reach from grey-brown to grey-green and sometimes even brown, it’s a beautiful reptile.
Springtime is the breeding season. After a month they do lay 10 to 50 eggs and one or two months later the offspring will hatch. As one of the earlier mentioned nicknames imply, it is a water snake, their habitat is one of the other reasons for the nickname as they do live near waters and in the wetlands. So, we didn’t find the snake because of the pond but due to the fact that there is a River (the Trave River in Lübeck) close to our garden.
The ringed snake can dive up to 20 minutes underwater because they have a reservoir behind the lung that can be filled with air. This air cell is not only for diving, it is essential to be able to devour big prey and this means the air passages can be closed while food intake. They can even devour a big common toad and other big prey as the right and left under-jaw is only connected with elastic bands that are flexible and independently moveable.
They are very shy, we really had problems to take photos. When they notice the vibrations caused by your steps, they will try to flee. If they feel escaping is not possible, they have a repertoire of defense strategies. First they try to appear bigger and inflate the body a little bit, they sometimes do also do bob up the front body in this case.
In other cases they do sometimes do pendular movements. They also can try to appear aggressive with hissing and striking but they rarely bite. But their main defence is to either play dead and secrete blood out of the mouth and nose, or to produce fluid with the anal glands that smells like garlic. The snake we found prefered to flee and dived into the pond. Fortunately I was able to take at least some photos…