Grass snake chemical defence

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swyn

Full Member
Nov 24, 2004
846
5
62
Eastwards!
I have just picked up an adult grass snake sunning itself in the middle of a lane near our office. Certainly the biggest snake that I have handled. (4 in my life) Very lively, very beautiful and about two feet long. At this time of the day there is quite a lot of traffic so it's life was at risk.

In picking it up and walking into some good cover I cradled it in my left hand whilst holding it's head with my right. Whilst handling I was as gentle as I could be but the snake was clearly stressed and produced some white milky substance which smells like dead fish! I am now very smelly.:rolleyes:

Does anyone have any experience of a similar reaction? I would be interested to hear.

Cheers from Swyn.
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,767
679
Mercia
Its a standard defense mechanism of a grass snake - same logic as a skunk I guess. I've not experienced it personally though. In fact I'd like a few more details - perhaps you could pick it up carefully and check where the smell is squirted from ? Or perhaps not...:D

Red
 

commandocal

New Member
Jul 8, 2007
425
0
UK
Yes i found one in some woods sunbathing in the sand near the stream when i was young and naive, i picked it up and decided i was going to take it with me, it started smelling really bad and wriggly then it "played" dead, i thought i had given it a heart attack or something so i put it in my bag and stupidly thought i was going to eat it, i hang the bag on a tree 20 minutes later and it slithered out, realising it was not dead i picked it up and took it to where i found it and made all my clothes smell of a rotting corpse
 

JonnyP

Full Member
Oct 17, 2005
3,833
29
Cornwall...
I have picked up a few before, and they all seem to smell of garlic to me.....??? Seen some huge ones before. Was fishing once and saw one, I reckon 3 to 4 feet long swimming across the lake with all the ducks attacking it....
 

spamel

Banned
Feb 15, 2005
6,833
21
45
Silkstone, Blighty!
Not a nice thing to read about here I must admit. Hopefully, he is now a bit more realistic about a snake trying to creep into his hammock to kill him.

I remember as a child going away for a summer camp with my school and some people cornered and killed a grass snake. I'd like to think it was playing dead though, they thought it was poisonous and did what they wrongly thought was the best thing. It was laying back with its tongue lolling out, I can see it as clear as if it were yesterday. A pointless waste of life.
 

-Switch-

Settler
Jan 16, 2006
845
4
41
Still stuck in Nothingtown...
Not a nice thing to read about here I must admit. Hopefully, he is now a bit more realistic about a snake trying to creep into his hammock to kill him.

I remember as a child going away for a summer camp with my school and some people cornered and killed a grass snake. I'd like to think it was playing dead though, they thought it was poisonous and did what they wrongly thought was the best thing. It was laying back with its tongue lolling out, I can see it as clear as if it were yesterday. A pointless waste of life.

Sounds like it was playing dead. They tend to roll the head back, let the tongue hang out and emit a smell of rotting flesh so they appear dead to predators and therefore would not make a good meal. It's actually a good sign that it's alive, as a grass snake looks nothing like that when it really is dead.
 

-Switch-

Settler
Jan 16, 2006
845
4
41
Still stuck in Nothingtown...
Here's a pic if you're interested...

imgres
 

RobertRogers

Need to contact Admin...
Dec 12, 2006
362
0
60
USA
Snakes are good. And not just good eating - they serve a very important purpose in nature. Best to leave them be.

Here in NorthEastern USA, near Canada, the snakes are never poisonous. I heard tell of rattlesnakes a hundred miles south, but even those are rare.

The local snakes I have picked up will defecate all over your hand. It is very smelly and a type of defense.
 

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