Smooth snake France













Smooth snake

Coronella austriaca

Coronelle Lisse

(Syn.Française Couleuvre lisse)

The Smooth Snake (Coronelle lisse) is similar to the Southern Smooth Snake (Coronelle de Bordeaux), being 50 to 80cm long but more slender and with smoother scales which can have a marbled effect. The back has two rows of darker markings in pairs which join together to form transversal bands. The underside is a mixture of browns, greys and russets. The sides have darker flecks and at the rear of the head is a dark V with the V open towards the rear. Their eyes have round pupils.

They can be found in most parts of France generally at lower altitudes where they prefer dry, sunny open situations that also offer shelter such as open forests, hedgerows, old stone walls, old quarries, roadsides and vineyards. Prey is mainly lizards, but will also eat small mammals and baby snakes.

Photo. Smooth snake, Coronella austriaca, France

They are diurnal and spend most of their time on the ground or frequently beneath the ground in holes and tunnels, although they will sometimes scale walls and climb into shrubs and hedges. When disturbed they rarely move fast, sliding slowly away their colouring blending with the background.  Hibernation is quite late from November until March but is temperature dependant.

Photo: Smooth snake (Julie Roberts)

Coupling takes place twice, the first just after hibernation and the second in September / October. This species is ovoviviparous(1) the young are born after a gestation period of 6 to 12 weeks in a transparent mucus sac which they then exit being about 20 cm long. If coupling is late in the year or the weather conditions are bad the young will be born the following spring. Violent fights take place between males and also between the sexes at coupling times, twisting round each other and biting savagely, sometimes this ends in death.

Population: in decline



(1) Animals that retain the eggs within the body of the female in a brood chamber in which the development of the embryo takes place, perhaps deriving some nourishment from the female, but without the strong umbilical attachment to a placenta as in mammals; the typical condition of so-called "live-bearing" fishes. Also called aplacental viviparous. The young hatch inside the mother's uterus from their thin egg capsule, and are usually born shortly afterwards.