Common Grass Snake Care Sheet


Introduction

The common grass snake, known by its Latin name Natrix natrix, meaning ‘water snake’, inhabits various parts of Europe, mainly the eastern regions, such as Germany and Romania. They can grow to about 120 cm long. These snakes are usually dark green, brown or grey in colour, with a unique yellow band behind their head. Generally, the grass snake has darker pigmentation in colder regions, most likely due to the benefits of the darker colour in a cold environment. The snake has a white underside with blocks of black unique to individual specimens, like a fingerprint.

grass snake, natrix helvetica, snake

Large grass snake on a log.

Feeding

These snakes will feed on various amphibians  such as frogs, toads and newts as well as mice. Depending on the size of the snake, they will appreciate varying sizes of mice, ranging from pinkies to large mice. Celtic’s animals however are fed a mixture of mice, salmon and trout, dusted with multivitamins. Grass snakes have been observed to eat earthworms and even ants which shows the important for introducing naturally occurring colonies of insects into the enclosure. Like all animals, these snakes appreciate a varied diet.

Housing

Common grass 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. This also makes for great habitats for insects such as ants, spiders and woodlouse, which are a natural clean-up crew. 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 30 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. Grass snakes can also be housed sufficiently indoors. A vivarium of ample size should be planted with various shrubs and hides should be added. Make sure to add a hotspot of around 30C and a cool end of around 20C.

Habitat of the common grass snake: pools in Pembroke, Wales, UK.

 

Breeding

Mating occurs within the spring months, usually in April. The female will lay her eggs in June or July with batches of 8 – 40 eggs. These eggs will take roughly 10 weeks to hatch, depending on temperature variation. The optimum temperature for the eggs is 28 C with high humidity. When the eggs hatch, the young will be around 20 cm long and are immediately independent! In the wild, grass snakes use piles of rotting vegetation to lay their eggs, of which the decomposition acts as a natural incubator.