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Western Whip Snake – Hierophis viridiflavus – Is-Serp l-iswed

Western Whip Snake – Hierophis viridiflavus – Is-Serp l-iswed

The western whip snake is a characteristic and frequent reptile across its natural range. It is present across most of southern Europe and avoids the coldest zones.

It is slender with a well-defined head, smooth scales and prominent eyes. The average length of a mature specimen is between 1.5 to 2 m. The males is generally larger than the female having a bigger head to help it firmly hold the female during mating.

As first glance it appears completely black in colour, however, upon closer inspection one can notice a general green tinge. The belly is light grey in colour though it can also have a yellow tinge. Young snakes have an ash-grey body and olive-green head until around their fourth year.

The western whip snake is a typical ecotonal habitat reptile that is, it chooses dry and warm transition zones between two habitat types. It can be found near woodland margins, maquis and garigue, arable land and also the urban area. They are able to climb trees to hunt or bask, and even swim if harassed and require a quick getaway.

It is a diurnal species moving fast across its territory raising its fore part to get a better view and collect air particles via the continuous movement of the forked tongue. This helps it to reveal the possible presence of predators or prey. Although mildly aggressive, it is completely harmless and does not have any venom but rather kills its prey by constriction.

The diet is mainly made up of lizards, amphibians, other snakes, and to a lesser degree small mammals, small birds and even birds’ eggs. Young snakes will feed primarily on insects but can also hunt small lizards.

Mating starts around March and in June/July between 5 to 15 eggs are laid. These will hatch 6 to 8 weeks later.

The western whip snake, like all reptiles in the Maltese islands is legally protected

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