Aesculapian Snake

Aesculapian Snake

Aesculapian snake

4 languages
Zamenis longissimus
Population size
Life Span
25-30 yrs
110-160 cm

The Aesculapian snake (now Zamenis longissimus, previously Elaphe longissima ), is a species of nonvenomous snake native to Europe, a member of the Colubrinae subfamily of the family Colubridae. Growing up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length, it is among the largest European snakes, similar in size to the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata ) and the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus ). The Aesculapian snake has been of cultural and historical significance for its role in ancient Greek, Roman and Illyrian mythology and derived symbolism.


















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The Aesculapian snake is a nonvenomous snake native to Europe. It is dark, long, slender, and typically bronzy in color, with smooth scales that give it a metallic sheen. Juveniles are light green or brownish-green with various darker patterns along the flanks and on the back. Two darker patches appear in the form of lines running on the top of the flanks. The head in juveniles also features several distinctive dark spots and they also have a yellow collar on the neck. Adults are much more uniform, sometimes being olive-yellow, brownish-green, sometimes almost black. Often in adults, there may be a more or less regular pattern of white-edged dorsal scales appearing as white freckles all over the body up to moiré-like structures in places, enhancing the shiny metallic appearance. Sometimes, especially when pale in color, two darker longitudinal lines along the flanks can be visible. The belly is plain yellow to off-white, while the round iris has amber to ochre coloration.



The range of Aesculapian snakes includes most of France except in the north, the Spanish Pyrenees and the eastern side of the Spanish northern coast, Italy (except the south and Sicily), all of the Balkan peninsula down to Greece and Asia Minor and parts of Central and Eastern Europe up until the eastern part of the range (Switzerland, Austria, South Moravia (Podyjí/Thayatal in Austria) in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, south Poland (mainly Bieszczady/Bukovec Mountains in Slovakia), Romania, south-west Ukraine). Further isolated populations have been identified in western Germany and the northwest of the Czech Republic (near Karlovy Vary, the northernmost known current natural presence of the species). They are also found in Georgia, northern Turkey, Azerbaijan, and northwestern Iran. Aesculapian snakes prefer forested, warm but not hot, moderately humid but not wet, hilly or rocky habitats with not sparse vegetation. In most of their range they are typically found in broadleaf forests along river valleys and riverbeds (but not marshes), forest steppes, shrublands, woods interspersed with meadows, etc. They are also often found in gardens and sheds, and even prefer habitats such as old walls and stonewalls, derelict buildings and ruins that offer a variety of hiding and basking places. They avoid open plains and agricultural deserts.

Aesculapian  Snake habitat map

Climate zones

Aesculapian  Snake habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Aesculapian snakes are solitary and active by day. In the warmer months of the year, they come out in late afternoon or early morning. They are very good climbers and are able to climb even vertical, branchless tree trunks. These snakes may climb as high as 4-5 m and even 15-20 m in trees, and forage in the roofs of buildings. They try to avoid exposure to direct sunlight and cease activity with more extreme heat. Aesculapian snakes can be active even during hibernation, moving around to keep a body temperature near 5 °C and occasionally emerging to bask on sunny days. They usually stay within their home ranges, however, during the mating season males will travel up to 2 km to find females and females to find suitable hatching sites to lay eggs. These snakes are deemed secretive and not always easy to find. In contact with humans, they can be rather tame, possibly due to their cryptic coloration keeping them hidden within their natural environment. They usually disappear and hide, but if cornered they may sometimes stand their ground and try to intimidate their opponent, sometimes with a chewing-like movement of the mouth and occasionally biting.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Aesculapian snakes are carnivores. Their main food source is rodents up to the size of rats and other small mammals such as shrews and moles. They also eat birds as well as bird eggs and nestlings. Juveniles mainly eat lizards and arthropods, later small rodents.

Mating Habits

mid-May to mid-June
6-10 weeks
10 eggs

The breeding season of Aesculapian snakes occurs annually after hibernation in spring, typically from mid-May to mid-June. In this time the snakes actively seek each other and mating begins. Rival males engage in ritual fights the aim of which is to pin down the opponent's head with one's own or coils of one's body; they may also bite each other. The courtship consists of the elegant dance between the male and female, with anterior portions of the bodies raised in an S-shape and the tails entwined. 4 to 6 weeks after mating females lay about 10 eggs in a moist, warm spot, usually under hay piles, in rotting wood piles, heaps of manure or leaf mold, old tree stumps and similar places. The eggs incubate for around 6 to 10 weeks before hatching. Young Aesculapian snakes become reproductively mature at 4 to 6 years of age.


Population threats

The main threats to Aesculapian snakes include human-caused habitat destruction and persecution by people. Another significant threat also comes from roads both in terms of new construction and rising traffic, with a risk of further fragmentation of populations and loss of genetic exchange.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Aesculapian snake is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.


1. Aesculapian Snake on Wikipedia -
2. Aesculapian Snake on The IUCN Red List site -

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