Meet 6 Snakes of the Danube River

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: September 16, 2022
Image Credit /Shutterstock.com
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The Danube River originates in Germany and crosses ten countries before dumping its waters in the Black Sea. It is the second longest river in Europe, surpassed only by the Volga River in Russia. With over 1,700 miles of flowing water, the many snakes of the Danube River have plenty of habitats to choose from.

It’s not only snakes that make their home in this magnificent waterway. Mammals like foxes, otters, and black bears reside along its banks. It is also an important habitat for hundreds of species of fish and many migratory birds. The Danube is also a great place to find turtles and, of course, a diverse population of snakes.

Here, we’ll meet six of the most common snakes of the Danube River. Some are venomous, while others rely on other means to kill. We’ll learn about each—what they look like, what they eat, and where they live. We’ll also find out just how dangerous each species is.

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Read on to learn more about the six snakes of the Danube River!

1. Caspian Whipsnake

The Caspian whipsnake, also known as the large whipsnake, lives in Eastern Europe and Asia, particularly on the Balkan Peninsula.

Valentina Moraru/Shutterstock.com

Caspian whipsnakes are some of the largest snakes of the Danube River. They grow up to 6.8 feet on average, though some may approach 8 feet. These snakes have slender bodies characterized by light brown scales with a dark brown stripe down the back. They have narrow heads, round pupils, and short snouts.

Caspian whipsnakes are not venomous and pose no threat to humans. They’re diurnal (active during the day) hunters who eat just about every small creature they can find. They are particularly known for eating rodents, like mice and rats, but also eat birds, lizards, and even smaller snakes.

2. Smooth Snake

smooth snake on autumn forest ground ( Coronella austriaca )
These snakes are widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and the northernmost parts of the Middle East.

iStock.com/taviphoto

Smooth snakes of the Danube River grow up to 30 inches long, though most top out around two feet. They range in color from light tan to red-brown, with slender bodies. Their most distinct markings come from two rows of dark brown splotches on either side of their back. These blotches terminate in two dark bands that cross the sides of their heads, just below the eyes. Like many non-venomous snakes, their pupils are round.

Smooth snakes lack venom, so instead, they kill by constriction. Lizards and snakes are some of their favorite prey items, though they will also eat other small creatures opportunistically. 

3. Aesculapian Snake

aesculapian snake
The Aesculapian snake lives throughout much of Eastern Europe. They’re found along much of the Danube River’s length.

Martin Pelanek/Shutterstock.com

Aesculapian snakes typically grow to between 40-60 inches long, though some have been recorded up to 80 inches (6 ft 8 in) long. They have relatively heavy bodies with large heads. Their base color is dark brown, with amber-colored markings similar to those of a leopard. These markings end at the base of the head, which is amber-colored with very dark stripes across the eyes. Some of these snakes lack the markings and instead appear all over amber.

These snakes of the Danube River live in thick forests and shrublands and do much of their hunting in the trees. Rats, moles, shrews, and mice are their favorite foods, but they will also eat birds and lizards. Lacking venom, Aesculapian snakes kill by constriction. One of the most interesting things about these snakes is their presence in human history; their depictions are common in Greek and Roman motifs, and may even be seen today.

4. European Adder

Common European Adder (Vipera berus)
Also known as the European viper, this snake lives across Eastern Europe and into Asia.

Holm94/Shutterstock.com

European adders might not be the largest snakes of the Danube River, but they’re certainly some of the most feared. These snakes grow up to two feet long, with heavy bodies and heads slightly wider than their necks. Adults have a tan base color, with a single dark stripe made up of repeated ‘Z’s running down the center of the back. As vipers, these snakes possess red eyes with vertically elliptical pupils.

European adders are diurnal and spend most of their time on the ground. They’re not aggressive, though they do pack potent venom. They use this venom to kill frogs, newts, salamanders, slow worms, rodents, birds, and lizards. European adders are slow to bite, and their bites rarely lead to serious complications. However, any bite should receive prompt medical attention.

5. Dice Snake

dice snake
Dice snakes are also known as water snakes.

benny337/Shutterstock.com

A true snake of the Danube River, the dice snake spends most of its time either in or near the water. This snake grows to be between 40-50 inches long as adults and may be tan, gray, or even dark brown in color. Dice snakes generally have indistinct darker splotches along their bodies, like small spots. They have large, amber-colored eyes with long, narrow heads designed to grasp fish.

Dice snakes are easily confused with grass snakes, though they’re much more likely to be seen in or near the water than the latter. These snakes are specialized to hunt in the water. Their primary prey items include fish, tadpoles, frogs, and toads. Dice snakes lack venom and pose no threat to humans.

6. Nose-horned Viper

An aggressive male nose-horned viper on a rock ( Vipera ammodytes ). Males have a background of gray or brown scales with a pattern of dark brown or black zigzags running down its back.
Though little known outside Europe, these vipers are known for their potent venom.

iStock.com/taviphoto

These snakes of the Danube River go by many names. Nose-horned vipers are also known as sand vipers, long-nosed vipers, or simply horned vipers. They grow to be between 20-35 inches long and have one highly unique feature. A set of hardened, erect scales on their noses gives them a rhinoceros-like ‘horn’, which gives them their name. These snakes range in color from light brown to light grey, with irregular darker markings. Like all pit vipers, they have wide, triangular heads, large fangs, and vertically elliptical pupils.

Nose-horned vipers spend time both in the trees and on the ground. They’re highly venomous and eat small mammals, lizards, and birds. Bites to humans require immediate medical attention.

Up Next…

The snakes in the Danube are just one example of an amazing location with a unique animal population. Check out these other articles about creatures who reside in challenging environments.

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Common adder on leaf litter.
Male European adders are usually silvery-gray in color, and thinner than the females.
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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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