A colleague and I were walking in Regent's park past the Zoo when he stopped us stepping on this snake. It was about 1 metre long and had a smallish head. By the time I thought to take a picture it had almost escaped! It had been hiding in a blocked drain and was making its way out when we saw it. It moved quite slowly (despite the warm day).
I think it's probably a grass snake, which can be olive green to brown. I don't suppose you remember if it had a ring of yellow just below the head, as this is one of the best ways to identify a grass snake? Grass snakes, adders and smooth snakes are the only British snakes and grass snake seems most likely (and more likely than a zoo escapee!)
If you email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, I've got some nice British reptile and amphibian leaflets I can send you.
Yes, the colouring on grass snakes is very variable, from green to brown, and the black marks also very from very clear to none at all with a uniform colour.
I love snakes but just like you, all the people I know who grew up in parts of the world with dangerous snakes also avoid them! Makes sense.
I don't know if this helps, but I just want to support Luanne's ID. I have personally handled Grass Snakes, Adders, and Smooth Snakes in Romania, and your photo looks to me exactly like a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix). Adders look very different, and Smooth Snakes kind of mimic Adders, and are also distributed in very few places in England, not in London.
Luanne explained very well the colour variation of Grass Snakes. You can see in this old ID guide illustration what they can look like.
In Eastern Europe, most Grass Snakes have bright yellow marks on their head. I understand that here in England they are whitish or even missing.
Everywhere Grass Snakes are harmless; they don't even try to bite whatever you do to them, they just feign an attack to scare you, or play dead in the hope you will let them go. So never worry about these snakes when you see them again!
hey guys, the "snake" seems to have very smooth and shiny scales and it also appears to be very long and slender and was described as having a small head, i feel that this may not be a snake at all but rather a Slow Worm. Is 1 metre too long for a slow worm though?
Yes, 1m is too long for a slow worm. Slow worms are usually less than 50cm long, whereas grass snakes are usually around 120cm, but can grow up to 200cm.
I agree with Florin and Luanne, I'd be very surprised if this wasn't a grass snake!
(NHM ID Team)
Thanks for taking part in this discussion. I can see your point, and I agree that given that the Aesculapian Snake lives in the area, grows to a similar size, and looks a bit like a Grass Snake, it could have been one.
Despite this, I still think it was rather a Grass Snake. Take a look at the contrast between the dorsal scales and the ventral scales. The contrast is greater in Grass Snakes, and the limit between these areas is clear. In the Aesculapian Snake, the contrast is smaller and the limit is gradual, no so neat as in the Grass Snake. This snake also shows ventral scales delimited by black zones, which are not seen in the Aesculapian Snake. Please compare these images of the Aesculapian Snake with this photo of a Grass Snake to see what I mean. The fourth photo on this page as well.
Both species vary in colour patterns, but Aesculapian Snakes seem to always have two small white marks at the base of some dorsal scales, which I don't see in this photo.
There are plenty of clear photos out there to google for and compare, but the main thing for me is that this photo has the jizz of the Grass Snake, of which I have handled many specimens in the past.
I hope this helps.
I'd still argue that it's more like an Aesculapian snake. It's very similar to this photo of another individual from Regent's Park: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/uploads/will/2007-09-01_122050_aesculapian_snake_2.JPG
(from a discussion on the Regent's Park introduction, which has lots of other good photos: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/the-camden-creature_topic2068_page1.html )
It's very rare to see grass snakes in the UK without black bars on their sides, and black marks on their backs. They're also rather square in cross-section, and this animal is very rounded, much more like the Aesculapian snake. This snake is also rather more slender than most grass snakes.
The shininess, though, is still the main reason I think it's an Aesculapian, and not an unusually coloured grass snake- grass snakes are just never that shiny, even when freshly shed- their keeled scales give them much more of a matt appearance.
Beany, looking at the first example you gave it does look very similar to the one in my picture - now I'm feeling like it's one of these Aesculapians snakes. I wish I'd been less wary and quicker to get my phone out for more pictures, and I can't believe the person in your second example who just picked up an unknown snake next to a zoo...
I hope I'm not annoying you with my stubbornness. It’s just that I’m used to go wherever the evidence takes me, and in this case it seems to me that the snake was rather Natrix than Zamenis.
Now, compare this with Beany’s example. Brownish-grey back and yellowish brown belly, without distinct demarcation between ventral and dorsal scales.
All the snakes on Herpetofauna forum are the same.
Compare with some Natrix photos here (I made the crops from photos on the Internet).
And here are some of the best examples I could find of Zamenis.
Finally, compare with the snake in question.
It's not only the contrast between white belly and grey back, but also the 'crenelated' aspect given by black spaces between white scales. Is there one photo of a known Zamenis with the pattern like the one in the photo? The best I could find so far (greatest contrast) has plenty of those small white marks on the back, not present on ‘our’ snake.
I can see what you're saying about the line along the belly, and the white spots, but I think most of your examples are from the front half of the animal. Aesculapian snakes' markings are somewhat different on the rear half of the body, with fewer (or absent) white spots, and a clearer demarcation of colouration between body and belly scales. If you look at this crop from the image I linked to earlier,
from the rear portion of a Regent's park Aesculapian snake, I think it looks strikingly similar to your enlarged crops from the original photo (which is unfortunately only the rear half, maybe two thirds of the animal).
I've just found this thread online - apologies for arriving late! The snake is an Aesculapian snake, Zamenis longissimus. There are no populations of grass snake near to Regent's Park, the nearest being on Hampstead Heath, a few miles away. I've been studying the Aesculapians for four years, and have ID'd around 30 animals, believed descended from an escape/release almost twenty years ago. The links already provided to the 'rauk' forum above will give you a more detailed picture. You were lucky to see one in the open, as they're usually found (if at all) in dense undergrowth or in bushes (as per the pair in the photo below). I'm hoping to do a formal study with agreement from Natural England and ZSL next year, and if anyone has any further sightings I'd be really grateful to receive the details at 'email@example.com' - thanks!
Chair of Trustees
London Essex and Hertfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Trust
charity number 1089466
PS If you had been able to get a picture of the head, it might have been possible to ID the individual animal, as they all have different patterns of scales on the head - apart from that, they all look pretty much the same in colour, being brownish on top and cream on the underside.
haha personally i dont "snacke" on grass at all but back to the snake yep I'd be inclined to go with the aesculapian snake as i recognised instantly this is not a grass snake i see them frequently around where i live and
it was too shiny indicating scales too smooth as the grass snakes are very clearly keeled whereas the aesculpian's are much smoother
too dark though i do know they can be quite dark i've never seen one that dark... suppose living in the city could cause that as im from the countryside in devon
missing some pattern
and marginally too thin for its apparent length though that could be caused by being underfed, unlikely with all the rodents in london though