Grass Snake

Natrix natrix

Last updated: March 29, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Use acute hearing to hunt


Grass Snake Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Natrix natrix

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Grass Snake Facts

Various amphibianous creatures
Main Prey
Toads, frogs, other amphibians
Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Use acute hearing to hunt
Biggest Threat
Loss of habitat and pollution impact on prey
Other Name(s)
Garter snake, water snake, ringed snake
Areas near bodies of waters
Hawks, crows, bears, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, foxes, squirrels and raccoons
Common Name
Garter snake
Special Features
Various patterns, colors, markings
Number Of Species

Grass Snake Physical Characteristics

  • White
15 to 25 years
2 to 4 feet

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This common snake is of the nonvenomous variety and is also called the ringed snake and water snake.

The common grass snakes’ colors are gray or green with a white or yellow neck collar. They have identification marks of interlinked yellow and black on the neck, forming a ring or band. The face is a mask of slashes and black bars.

Fond of wet habitats, the common snake lurks in gardens and dry grasslands in locations near bodies of water. During warm months, the creature will lie in the sun near ponds and lakes, and sometimes enjoy a nice swim.

Other facts include:

  • The common snake preys on fish, amphibians, birds, and small mammals for its diet.
  • The reptiles hibernate between October and April.
  • When threatened, they release a smelly, sticky musk.
  • The predators have a lifespan of 10 years.

4 Amazing Common Snake Facts

Here are four facts about the reptile that is interesting, amazing, and informative.

  • Grass snakes are predators, feeding primarily on toads, frogs, and fish; with the occasional young birds and small mammals.
  • The reptiles seem to enjoy the day, often found lying in the sun.
  • Threatened snakes have a number of defensive strategies that include releasing horrible odors.
  • When it goes into a shedding cycle, it becomes defensive because it can’t see as well as normal.

Where to Find Them

The grass snake inhabits so much of western Asia and Europe (where three species of the reptile almost bombard the United Kingdom). So fruitful are the animals, they’re considered common, hence the name.

The creatures prefer locations near rivers, ponds, lakes, and other wetland habitats. They’re exceptional swimmers and spend time leisurely enjoying the waters and sun around their ecosystems.

Scientific Name

The common grass snake is classified Natrix natrix. Also known as a water snake or ringed snake, among many monikers, it’s a non-venomous Eurasian colubrid reptile.

Currently, scientists have five common grass snake subspecies listed:

  • Natrix natrix natrix
  • Natrix natrix moreotica
  • Natrix natrix scutata
  • Natrix natrix syriaca
  • Natrix natrix vulgaris

Population and Conservation Status

Grass snakes are common throughout most of its range, although there are pockets where the populations are fragmented.

Conservationists do not see any threat of endangerment for the common grass snake. According to the IUCN Red List, the species is listed as being of “Least Concern.” But though the population’s stable, the destruction of habitats and pollution pose a risk to the species’ amphibious diet.

Appearance and Description

The common grass snake is usually brown or dark green with a creamy-white to yellow collar behind its head. However, it can also range from gray to black, depending on its location. Its belly is usually off-white with black blotches that can be used to recognize individual snakes, much like a zebra’s stripes.

These snakes have round pupils and several large flat scales on its head and can grow to over three feet long.

How Dangerous Are They?

The grass snake is relatively harmless as it avoids conflict. In general, they pose no threat to other animals. But the creature’s bite can lead to severe illness and fatalities.

These snakes don’t tend to bite, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Curious animals like dogs or cats have been on the wrong end of a grass snake’s teeth. If this happens, clean the wound to be sure it doesn’t become infected.

Behavior and Humans

Grass snakes are harmless, although they may musk when handled. These snakes are perfectly happy living anywhere they can find food.

In some cultures, they were revered as sacred animals. Baltic mythology holds that an injured snake may take its revenge or killing grass snakes could bring bad luck to the person who did the deed. In some Lativian and Lithuanian traditions, grass snakes are a sign of a house blessing.

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Grass Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Areas near bodies of waters

The snake has a slender, long body and smooth scales. The dorsal sides are of darker colors. The ventral parts of the body have lighter colors, typically yellow.

What Are the Colors of a Grass Snake?

While most are some shade of green, there are also tan, olive, black and other base colors.

Are Grass Snakes Poisonous?

No, they have no venom in their bite, so they’re not considered an imminent threat. But they are certainly capable of biting if frightened. There are instances of this snake biting animals. And they don’t like being handled. They may bite then as well.

How Do I Identify a Grass Snake?

Identification of the grass snake includes an interlinked yellow and black collar. It forms a ring or band below the head. The face is a mask of slashes and black bars.

Where Do Grass Snakes Live?

Water snakes have a fondness for wetland habitats. They’ll look for bodies of water, such as rivers, ponds and lakes. The snakes like open woodlands, gardens and grasslands, especially if they can find water.

What Do I Do if I Find a Grass Snake?

Facts are, harmless or not, many people aren’t comfortable with the idea of a snake slithering around. You can call local law enforcement, the fire department or animal control to remove the reptile.
Ultimately, the majority of encounters with garter snakes are incidental and result in no interaction. But if you come across one, leave the animal alone, especially if it’s not indoors.

What Is the Snake's Lifespan?

The garter snake has a lifespan of up to a decade or more.

What is a baby grass snake called?

The baby grass snake is called a snakelet, hatchling or neonates. Mothers leave the future baby eggs in rotting vegetation.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.


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