Monday, 11 May 2015

The Ladder Snake is aptly named because of the ladder markings on its back

Ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris) Photo by Pascal Dubois

The ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris) is an attractive harmless snake found in Portugal, Spain, southern France and some parts of Italy. It is also found on Menorca but is thought to have been introduced there. 

The ladder snake is in a group of snakes known as “rat snakes” because they have a tendency to feed on rodents. It is also known as Elaphe scalaris, which is the genus the other rat snakes are in.
The ladder snake takes its name from the dark markings between two blackish parallel lines down its spine that look like the rungs of a ladder. 

The ladder snake is more highly coloured when young when this patterning really stands out.  These juvenile snakes are a yellowish or pale brown in colour with the ladder marking in a contrasting black. There are dark markings on the sides and belly of these snakes too but the colours fade as they grow older.

Young Ladder Snake Photo by Steve Andrews

Adult ladder snakes reach around 160 cm and are mainly a dark brown or greyish for their main colouration.

Ladder snakes can be found in a variety of habitats, including scrub-land, clearings in forests, orchards and vineyards. These reptiles also have a liking for stone walls in which they can hide and hunt their prey. They also frequent rocky ground where there are plenty of boulders.

Ladder snakes feed on mice, shrews, small rats, birds, lizards, spiders and some other insects. Young snakes take small lizards and baby rodents, and also have a liking for spiders and grasshoppers. Adult ladder snakes will hunt birds in their nests by climbing into bushes and trees. Ladder snakes are active by day and night. 

Female ladder snakes lay between four and 24 eggs. The mother snakes will remain with the baby ladder snakes for a few days.

The ladder snake is in the Colubridae family of snakes, many of which are also non-venomous. The ladder snake will bite in defence, however, and will hiss if captured.

Because the ladder snake has a very wide distribution and lives in many habitats it is not regarded as in any current danger. Its conservation status is of Least Concern. Some ladder snakes become road casualties though, and the danger of getting run over by traffic is serious threat to many other types of reptile and amphibian.
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