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What is a Smooth Snake?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 28 April 2018
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The smooth snake is a non-poisonous species from Great Britain. When fully grown, the snakes are usually about 25 inches long (65 cm), and their bodies are relatively thin. Their color is generally brownish, with rows of darker spots on the back. Some people say they look a little bit like a viper, but vipers have a thicker body and a more robust-looking head. The smooth snake is very rarely seen, and British law makes it illegal to harm them in any way.

Smooth snakes prefer to eat other reptiles exclusively. According to some reports, they do occasionally eat mammals like mice, but it is thought to be a relatively rare occurrence. They are known to be very skilled hunters, and even when they're very young, they can sometimes take animals nearly as big as themselves. They rely on a stealthy approach when hunting, and they use constriction to kill their prey, gradually squeezing them until they're either weakened or die from suffocation. Once the prey is safely immobilized, the snakes will proceed to eat, sometimes before the animal is actually dead.

These snakes usually like to live on heath slopes, but sometimes they live in areas of denser growth. They often wrap themselves around vegetation as a form of camouflage, which helps them to surprise their prey. Their skill in hiding is thought to be one of the main reasons they aren't often spotted by people.

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In October, the smooth snake hibernates, coming out into the open again in March. During hibernation, there are usually many snakes all gathered in one place. The male snakes generally come out of hibernation a bit earlier than the females. Mating happens very soon after they emerge, usually within a month.

After mating, there is a 90-day gestation period before the females give birth. The snakes give birth to live young inside a soft membrane. In a typical mating cycle, the females give birth to about 10 baby snakes, although it can be as high as 15 or as low as four. Once they are born, the infant snakes are totally independent, and they can be targeted by other smooth snakes, which have cannibalistic tendencies.

The smooth snake has a relatively strict requirement for a very particular kind of habitat, and this has led to a significant reduction of the population. There are areas where they can be found pretty easily if a person knows where to look, but there was a time when they were more widely distributed. A project was launched to redistribute the smooth snake in the area of Devon in England, where it had previously been extinct for about 50 years.

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