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Balkan whip snake


Did you know that the Balkan whip snake hunts in ambush by wrapping its body into a coil and suddenly unlashing at high speed to catch its prey from a distance?

The Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) is distributed along the entire eastern coast of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, from northwestern Italy, through to Albania and southern Greece, and is also found on some Adriatic and Greek islands. It is found throughout Krka National Park. It inhabits dry, rocky habitats with low, shrubby vegetation and low macchia, in sparse forests, olive groves and vineyards to altitudes of 1000 m.

It remains on the ground, and only rarely climbs up onto branches. It is active by day. When disturbed, it bites. The body is grey, greyish-brown or yellowish-brown with dark spots towards the head and often with narrow light and dark stripes towards the tail. The belly is milky yellow. This is a large snake, with a slender body, large oval-shaped head and blunt snout. Its eyes are very pronounced, and it has round pupils. The tail accounts for about one-quarter the length of the body and is very thin and whip-like. It primarily feeds on lizards, other snakes, and small mammals and more rarely on young birds and eggs, and large insects (grasshoppers). Young snakes primarily feed on small lizards and insects. Mating occurs in May. In late June or early July, the female lays 3 to 10 eggs, about 25 to 40 mm in size, under dry grass and leaves. Incubation lasts from 8 to 9 weeks, depending on the temperature. Sexual maturity is achieved at three years. This snake usual grows to about 100 cm, but sometimes can grow to 150 cm. In the wild, it can live from 15 to 20 years. Hibernation occurs from mid November to early March.

This species is threatened by habitat change, urbanization, intensive agriculture, and many are killed by people out of fear. In Croatia, this snake is protected under the Ordinance on the protection of certain species of reptile (Reptilia), and the Ordinance on the proclamation of protected and strictly protected wild species.