Aesculapian Snake Care Sheet


Introduction

The Aesculapian snake, known by its Latin name Zamenis longissumus meaning ‘the fierce long one’, inhabits various parts of Europe, including Spain, France, Italy and western Germany. Two colonies have interestingly been established in London, UK  and North wales, likely due to escapes from a private owner or an intentional releases. They are one of Europe’s largest snakes and grow to about 160 cm long, however an individual has been recorded at an impressive 225 cm. They are dark snakes usually consisting of a bronze colour. They are notably long and slim with smooth scales appearing metallic. Juvenile Aesculapian snakes can be easily confused with grass snakes due to them having a similar yellow band on the neck. Juveniles are also light green or brown in colour and can have multiple dark patterns along the flanks and back. Adults are more yellow and brownish-green than light green like juveniles. Sometimes they can even be as dark as black. The belly is often yellow or creme which gives an interesting contrast from the rest of their bodies.

Male Aesculapian snake (top) and a juvenile melanistic specimen.

Feeding

These snakes will feed on various sized rodents, like mice and rats. Depending on the size of the snake, they will take appropraitely sized mice, ranging from pinkies to large mice. Aesculapian snakes have been observed to eat rats of up to the size of 200 g! They also will feed on small mammals such as shrews or voles. Additionally, Aesculapian snakes will happily eat birds, eggs and hatchlings, making them fierce specimens, hence the name.

Housing

Aesculapian snakes will really appreciate a vivarium with plenty of space to explore, bury and bask. Therefore, we recommend a vivarium of size 1.5m x 0.5m for an individual or pair. The enclosure should also have 50-60cm of soil for the snake to burrow down and brumate. A variety of plant species, logs and stones will help create a more natural, realistic environment for the snake to enjoy. The inclusion of branches and bushes will give the snake ample room to climb. Perhaps the addition of a birds nest would do the trick! This also makes for great habitats for insects such as ants, spiders and woodlouse: it’s your own microbiome! Remember, the larger the enclosure, the happier the animal, so don’t hesitate to make a larger enclosure. At Celtic Reptile & Amphibian we house all of our animals outdoors in greenhouse enclosures or outdoor vivaria, as this allows vital exposure to the sun and thus, the absorption of UVB light.  No external heating supply or UVB bulb is required when outdoors in the UK or Europe. This ensures the animals live the most naturalistic and healthy life possible. which can be seen from the stunning colours of our animals! In terms of temperature and humidity, this snake is rather hardy and so can withstand temperatures as low as 10 C and as high as 40 C , with a happy medium of around 20 C. This species loves to bask and so basking temperatures may need to be higher than the rest of the enclosure, however you can achieve this by ensuring your enclosure is on the south facing wall with no sunlight obstruction.

Habitat of the Aesculapian snake: edges of a forest, Vendee, France (top) and temperate rainforest, Rhine Valley, Germany. 

 

Breeding

Mating occurs within the later spring months, usually in May or June. In terms of courtship, this snake takes part in a mating dance, where both the female and male will raise their bodies in an S-shape, then proceeding to intertwine tails. The males will also grasp the females head in its mouth, so don’t be alarmed if this behaviour is witnessed. The female will lay her eggs around 4 – 6 weeks later with batches of 5 – 11 eggs. These eggs will take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks to hatch, depending on temperature variation. The most preferred location for the female to lay is somewhere warm, moist and with sufficient cover, for example in a hay or rotting leaf pile.