Danube Virtual Museum

Snakes

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

The Grass snake is most commonly seen snake in Serbia. The size is up to 1.5 m, sometimes but rarely 2m.

Females are larger than males. It has a distinctive head with two bright spots behind the ears, which in Serbian it is named after. Its colour varies from almost white to bright yellow, while the color cannot be seen in melanistic individuals.

Colour on the back side of the body varies from olive-green, through greenish-brownish to bluish-black. The underside is whitish with irregular blocks of black. This species inhabits all parts of Serbia. It is common near aquatic habitats - lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and canals, but it is often seen in fields, meadows, woods, as well as in human settlements. It is fast and very rarely bites. It is a good swimmer. When attacked, it releases a foul-smelling fluid from anal glands. Mating starts in the spring. It is customary to have more males around one female. This species often feeds on frogs, but also tritruses and fish, mice-like rodents, small birds and other snakes.

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)

The Dice snake is a medium size snake up to about 1.4 m. The head is clearly marked with salivary glands placed behind the ears, eyes and nostrils near the top of the head and round pupils.

The colour on the back side of the body varies from olive green, to grayish or completely black, and it can be found without markings or with dark rectangular spots similar to dice – hence the name in English.

The underside is whitish with irregular blocks of black, similar to the Grass snake. When attacked, it releases a foul-smelling fluid from its anal glands. Females are larger than males. It inhabits all parts of Serbia, like the Grass snake, whom it often shares the habitat with. But, dice snake is the more frequent or even dominant species of snake in rapid or large rivers and lakes. It is more aquatic than the Grass snake and able to stay longer under water. At least 70% of its prey is fish, while the others are mainly amphibians, other snakes, and sometimes slugs.

Caspian whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius)

The Caspian whipsnake is a strong and very fast snake, which can grow to over 2m long. The head is relatively short. It has smooth scales, round pupils, and a long and relatively thin tail, like a whip.

Its color is pale yellowish to light olive-brown, while the underside is light. It inhabits mainly open dry habitats in the area of oak forests and forest-steppes in the lower regions. It moves on the ground but can easily climb trees and bushes in search of prey. During the reproductive period it often gets killed on highways. It is often aggressive when disturbed, it is not likely to escape immediately, but dart towards the intruder, simulating attack and then flee. The young do not resemble the adults, but have a specific grey-brown color and a dorsal pattern, which takes the form of a simplified crown on the head. It feeds on small mammals, and also birds, lizards, and sometimes small snakes.

Lizards

Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)

The Green lizard is one of the bigger lizards of Europe. The total length reaches over 35 cm, at least two-thirds is the tail.

The colour of the back side of the body is green, and bright green in males during the mating season. Females can be brownish on the back side of the body or greenish-brown, sometimes with two pale stripes along the back and bright spots along the flanks. Males are characterized by the turquoise blue of the neck, extremely noticeable during the mating season. The female throat is yellowish-greenish. It is very widespread in Serbia and eats mainly invertebrates, but also bird eggs, chicks, and sometimes fruit.

Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis taurica)

The Balkan wall lizard is up to 24 cm long, two- thirds of this is the tail.

The colour of the back side of the body is green, with two thin light longitudinal stripes on the sides with dark spots between them. The underside is yellow to pale orange, but during mating it becomes bright orange on males. Distribution in Serbia is very interesting – it inhabits dry, mostly open lowland habitats of the Southwest, South, Southeast and Eastern Serbia, the eastern part of Vojvodina and the wider area of the Danube.

(Text: Natural History Museum in Belgrade)