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.


Unknown said...

Hi Steve.
I came across a baby ladder snake the other day, it´s the first time in 14 years in Spain I have encountered such an aggressively defensive snake here. It might have been small (around 7 inches long) but had BIG attitude.

How great to google this species and find an old friend writing about it. You might remember me from Hubpages or Bubblews, I´m bac2basics and Hollyhocks100 respectively on those sites.

Nice to see you :-)

The Green Bard said...

Hi Anne!

Thanks for finding my blog and commenting! They are great snakes aren't they?

Unknown said...

Hello. Currently staying in san miguel de salinas, spain. One is currently climbing our stone wall in the garden
Im peteified of snakes but managed to get a photo of one. Im assuming (and hoping) its a baby.

LaraM said...

Hubby caught one trying to get into the chicken house - the chickens were making an almighty noise. The snake is such a lovely creature, but wow - he was annoyed that we were catching him! Hissed like mad. We let him go in the bush.

Unknown said...

Saw a very large snake in my drive way.
It appeared to be plain black. At least 5ft long. Any idea what it was?

The Green Bard said...

It might have been a Montpelier Snake:

Nico said...

Great article thanks - I believe I found a juvenile ladder snake on a mountain trail run near Barcelona, Spain