Snakes

Blind snakes (Typhlopidae)

Typhlops vermicularis (MERREM, 1820) - Worm snake (Τυφλίνος, Σκουλικóφιδο)

This is a small and thin sub-terrestrial wormlike snake with an average size of about 20 cm. It is typically adapted for a burrowing life with a cylindrical smooth body, small head with rudimentary eyes, and a very short tail. It digs tunnels and is rarely seen above ground except after dark and sometimes during cloudy and rainy days. The worm snake feeds on small invertebrates such as spiders, centipedes and insects, especially ants and their larvae and pupae. It lays 4-8 eggs. Harmless.

 

Sand boas (Erycidae)

Eryx jaculus turcicus (OLIVIER, 1801) - Western sand boa (Έρυξ, Ερημόφιδο)

The sand boa is a predominantly nocturnal snake with an adult average size of 50-60 cm. It is adapted to a burrowing life with a stout cylindrical body, small ventral scales, a short blunt tail  and a pointed head with small eyes. It is found in dry and sandy or rocky habitats and feeds on small rodents and lizards. Reports of this species are scarce and it may well be the rarest snake on the island. It has smooth scales, vertical pupil and gives birth to 5-20 live young. Harmless. (Pictures of Eryx courtesy Matt Wilson).

Colubrids (Colubridae)

Elaphe quatuorlineata quatuorlineata (LACÉPÈDE, 1789) - Four-lined rat snake (Λαφιάτης, Λαφίτης, Τετράγραμμοσ)

A large and docile snake, frequently reaching 150 cm or more. Adults are easily recognized by four dark brown stripes against a light brownish background. The juvenile specimens look very different, being light gray with black blotches and appear to be commonly misidentified as vipers. The juveniles are frequently found dead on the roads after being killed by cars during spring and early summer. The species can be found in a variety of habitats and feeds on lizards, small mammals and birds, occasionally bird eggs. It has mooth scales, round pupil and lays 4-18 eggs. Harmless.

  Hierophis gemonensis (LAURENTI, 1768)- Balkan whip snake (Δενδρογαλιά)

A day-active medium sized snake, usually less than a 100 cm long with a well defined head and rather large eyes. The frontal part of the body has several small dark spots which are especially distinct on the lower side of the body. It can be seen in a variety of habitats and feeds on insects, lizards, rodents and occasionally birds. It has smooth scales, round pupil and lays 4-10 eggs. Harmless.

  Dolicophis caspius (GMELIN, 1789) - Caspian whip snake (Έφιος, Αστραπόφιδο)

A large day-active, heat loving and alert snake, often 150 cm or more, with a powerful body and a comparatively small head. The color is usually reddish brown, especially at the posterior part of the body and the tail. There is a fairly common color form with dark spots or dark cross bands and very dark eyes. This whip snake prefers open bushy grasslands and mainly feeds on lizards and rodents, occasionally snakes and birds. If it is cornered or provoked it may raise up to a third of the frontal part of body and strike and hiss violently but usually simply disappears with great speed. It has smooth scales, round pupil and lays 5-18 eggs.  Harmless.

  Platyceps najadum dahli (SCHINZ, 1833) - Dahl's whip snake (Σαΐτα)

A very elegant, slender snake with an average length of 80-100 cm. It is easily recognized by its reddish brown color in combination with a gray neck with a few large black spots along the sides. It is an alert day-active snake and a good climber which can be seen in a variety of habitats where it mainly feeds on lizards and to some extent insects. It has smooth scales, round pupil and lays 3-15 eggs. Bites can produce some slight local symptoms like swelling and inflammation but the species is harmless.

  Zamenis longissimus (LAURENTI, 1768) - Aesculapian snake (Λαφίτης του Ασκληπιού, Γιατρóφιδο)

A large but comparatively slender snake, often over 100 cm, males being larger than females. It seems to prefer wooded habitats and habitats with access to water. The body color is usually gray, brown or olive brown with small white spots at the tip of the scales. Juveniles have a more distinct head pattern with yellow neck markings. It feeds on lizards, small mammals and birds, especially nestlings. It has its name from the Greek god of healing Asclepius and the snake entwining a staff is the symbol of the art of medicine. It has smooth scales, round pupil and lays 2-18 eggs. Harmless.

  Zamenis situla (LINNAEUS, 1758) - Leopard snake (Σπιτόφιδο)

A medium sized, slender and colorful snake, usually about 80 cm long, It appears in two color forms, either with reddish spots or with reddish and white stripes against a cream or grey background, the striped form being the most common on Corfu. It is a rather timid snake which is rarely seen, mostly being active during early morning, late afternoon and at night. It is found in a variety of habitats and feeds on lizards and small rodents which it seems to prefer. It has smooth scales, round pupil and lays 2-8 eggs. Harmless.

  Telescopus fallax fallax (FLEISCHMANN, 1831) - European cat snake (Αγιόφιδο, Γατóφιδο)

A small, usually less than 50 cm, nocturnal species, rarely seen in daylight. The body is usually light gray with dark dorsal blotches and the small head is elongated heart-shaped with very distinctive eyes. It is an excellent climber that hunts geckos and other (sleeping) lizards at night, particularly in stone walls and ruins. This is the other rear fanged (opisthoglyphous or opisthodont) snake species on Corfu, with enlarged grooved teeth at the back of the upper jaw. It has smooth scales, vertical pupil and lays 5-9 eggs. It is mildly venomous but harmless.

  Natrix natrix persa (PALLAS, 1814) - Striped grass snake (Νερόφιδο)

A common snake, most frequently found in or near water. Females, reaching a meter or more, are larger than males which usually do not grow larger than 50 cm. The species is recognized by its yellow neck markings and, in most cases, two light stripes against a brownish or olive green body color with more or less distinct spots. Females mainly feed on frogs whereas males hunt smaller prey such as newts, often at night. It has keeled scales, round pupil and lays 5 to 30 or more eggs. Harmless

  Natrix tesselata  (LAURENTI, 1768) - Dice snake (Λιμνόφιδο, Ψηφιδόφιδο)

The dice snake can become quite large, but on Corfu it is usually rather small and slender with a length of around 60 cm. It is distinguished by its checkered pattern and rather large eyes which are placed high on the narrow and pointed head, It is the only snake species on Corfu that can be melanistic. The dice snake is almost exclusively seen in or near water and mainly feeds on small fish.and newts. It has keeled scales, round pupil and lays 5-30 eggs. Harmless.

  Malpolon insignitus fuscus (FLEISCHMANN 1831) - Eastern Montpellier snake (Σαπίτης, Σαυρόφιδο)

A common and large snake, often 100-150 cm long, frequently seen active during the day. It is a very agile and cautious species that will disappear with great speed when encountered. If threatened it will hiss loudly and strike. It is a skilled hunter, found in a variety of habitats, that feeds on anything of the right size, from insects to lizards, snakes, rodents and birds. Males are larger than females and usually uniformly gray or olive green. Females and especially juveniles are usually brownish with more or less distinct markings, especially on the head and throat. The head of this species is very distinctive with its large eyes and raised supraoculars (like eyebrows). The species is a so-called rear fanged (opisthoglyphous) snake with enlarged grooved teeth at the back of the upper jaw. It has smooth scales (some may be grooved), round pupil and lays 4-20 eggs. It is a mildly venomous but harmless species.

 

Viperids (Viperidae)

Vipera ammodytes meridionalis (BOULENGER, 1903) - Eastern nose horned viper (Οχιά κερασφόρος)

The horned viper, found throughout south-eastern Europe, is the only dangerous snake species on Corfu.  It is a rather small and slow moving snake, rarely exceeding 60 cm, easily identified by its dorsal zigzag pattern and broad triangular head with its distinctive horn. Body color varies considerably, females and juveniles frequently having a brownish yellow color while males tend to be gray. The dorsal zigzag stripe is normally chocolate brown. ---Vipers feed on a variety of prey, from insects and lizards in juveniles to small mammals and birds in adults. ---The species is found all over the island, and in most kinds of habitats. However, in comparison with other snake species on the island, the chance of seeing one is not particularly high. In April, May and possibly June when the temperatures are not too high, vipers may be seen basking, but later in summer they will turn nocturnal, hunting at night. ---The horned viper has potent venom and even if casualties are rare the symptoms can be quite severe and bites should be treated as soon as possible and always at a hospital. Sometimes you will find suggestions as to what you could do yourself if bitten, but the simple basic rule is to stay calm and to without delay, and preferably not alone, seek professional medical help. Under no circumstances should you try to treat the bite yourself;  to for instance suck, cut or chill the bite site will only make things worse. ---It is a common belief that there are European adders (Vipera berus, Αστρίτης) and even meadow vipers (Vipera ursinii, Νανόχεντρα) on the island. However, both these are temperate species and in Greece they only occur at high altitudes in the mountains on the mainland. The two snakes most likely mistaken for vipers are the cat snake (Telescopus fallax) and  juveniles of the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) which, in contrast to adult specimens, have a very distinct black and gray pattern.

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