How To Identify A Snake?

Have you ever been curious in how to recognize and classify snakes? Even though there are "only" 12 kinds of snake in England (8 snake species and 4 viper species), knowing this information is useful in case you encounter one of these tiny reptiles.

Always try to avoid getting bitten by a poisonous snake! You'll learn in this thorough article that, if you know how to do it, spotting a snake is actually quite easy.

1) Recognizing a Snake

A) How to Recognize a Snake among all the reptiles?

We must first go over the fundamentals before learning how to identify snakes!

Snakes belong to the order Squamata, which is a suborder of the class of animals known as reptiles (Reptilia) (which also includes lizards). And finally, they are members of the snake suborder.

In other words, they are members of a group of land-dwelling creatures with dry, scaly skin and hard-shelled eggs (the snake is oviparous). They rely on the ambient heat to keep their bodies at a constant temperature.

Snakes are predators with elongated bodies and no limbs. In England, small animals, amphibians, and rodents make up the majority of a snake's diet.

They lack eyelids and apertures that would serve as external ears. Therefore, a snake cannot blink. When a snake molts multiple times a year, the translucent scale that covers its eyes, which resembles a contact lens, is shed along with the skin.

One thing that can help you distinguish a reptile as a snake is knowing if it sheds all of its skin at once.

A further indicator of a snake's existence is the presence of a lengthy, two-pointed forked tongue. Snakes find a lot of information with their tongue.

They don't smell through their nostrils like mammals, but rather use their tongue to collect smells and insert them into their palate where the Jacobson's Organ is located.

This organ helps the snake interpret different odors and guides snakes to food or potential mates, but also allows them to spot potential danger.

B) How to practice Snake Identification?

Since snakes are ectotherms, they depend on ambient heat to keep themselves warm. Therefore, snakes can be seen at any time of the year in regions of the world where it is warm all year long, such as in the tropics and subtropics.

In contrast, snake activity is seasonal in more temperate or colder areas (like England). Snakes hibernate for several months of the year in various places.

Snakes can be found in a wide range of natural environments, including forests, marshes, swamps, fields, meadows, mountains, grasslands, riparian zones, and many others. Some snake species can also be found in rural regions near farms, meadows, and buildings. Even some species can be found in cities.


If you're looking for snakes, consider looking in some of the habitats mentioned above. Look especially in these kinds of places:

  • Wood chips or bark on the ground.
  • Rocks.
  • Wood edges.
  • Under large pieces of natural, or man-made, debris. Metal or cardboard sheets as well as large, thin, flat rocks, are excellent hiding places for snakes.

2) Identifying a snake

A) How to identify a snake?

Dissecting a snake's identification into important components is among the simplest ways to accomplish so. These characteristics of the snake's outward appearance distinguish it from other members of its genus or species.

When identifying a snake, there are a few important things to keep in mind. There are three primary variables and five supporting factors in this.

Main factors to identify a snake

Body shape: is the snake thin, long, short, thick, ...?
The first characteristic that we notice when we observe a snake is the shape of its body. Snakes are classified in three categories: small, medium and large. Once the length is determined, the width of the snake should also be examined. Whenever possible, the actual dimensions should be collected.

Head shape: is the head shaped like an arrowhead or an oval? Are there any heat pits on the snake's head? Is the snake's snout round or pointed?

Knowing if the snake has a triangular or oval head will help with identification, but is not proof that this animal has deadly venom, or that it does not. Many venomous vipers have a triangular head.

But other non-venomous snakes may have a head of the same shape when they deliberately flatten it, to appear more aggressive as a warning.

Venomous snakes have holes called Heat Pits on the sides of their snouts. These pits are used to detect their prey.

Eyes: Are the snake's eyes large or small? Do they have Vertical Pupils (elliptical pupils), or rounded ones? What color are its eyes?
Eye color, pupil shape, location on the face and eye size should all be observed to identify the ophidian in question.

These three identifiers: body length and width, head shape, and eye characteristics, will greatly specify the Species Type you are facing.

Secondary factors for identifying a snake

Color: What color(s) is the snake's skin composed of? Are the snake's belly and back two different colors?

Patterns: are there any colorful patterns present on the snake's skin? What do they look like? Is the snake spotted?

Color is usually very helpful in determining the type of snake you have found. Many snakes have distinctive patterns. These patterns are often rectangular with darker edges. If a diamond pattern is noted on the snake, the color of that pattern should also be noted. Spots are patterns without symmetry.

Scales: What is the texture of the scales, rough or smooth? Do any of these scales have keels (rising lines running lengthwise through the scale)? How many rows of scales are there on the snake's skin and belly?

Venomous snakes have only one row of scales on their belly, while non-venomous snakes have two.

Collars and Rings: Does the snake have colored bands that completely encircle its body?

One color ring can sometimes spell the difference between a harmless snake and a dangerous viper. The coral snake and the false coral snake are the most illustrative examples. Bands spanning the snake's breadth represent the ring patterns.

Other distinguishing characteristics can be used, such as the tail's form (with or without a bell) or the specific configuration of the scales. However, only experts can effectively classify species and the subspecies that exist within them using these features.

Rattlesnakes don't exist in England, yet they are, for instance, quite abundant in the USA (the famous Rattle Snake).

What to do with this information?

Once you have all the data, you can further hone your identification list by referencing a local species guide. The traits mentioned will aid in identifying one or more species. Because some snakes are nearly identical, exercise caution. You can utilize information about their natural habitat to distinguish them.

When a snake's appearance is insufficient to identify it, the species' habits come into play. Some snakes prefer sand, while others prefer rocky terrain. Some snakes are only found at specific times of the day or only eat particular creatures. There aren't always snakes to be discovered.

So, if you want to be able to recognize a snake on your own, having a solid understanding of the region would be very helpful. Keeping at least a rudimentary Naturalist Journal can be quite beneficial for recognizing snakes in the outdoors.

You can then use the details you provide in this notebook to locate additional snakes and learn more about them and their surroundings.

B) How to recognize a Poisonous Snake?

A snake that uses its venom to render its prey unconscious or lethal is said to be poisonous.

A snake's poisonousness cannot be determined with absolute certainty. The rules almost always have an exception. However, the only method used to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes is by studying the morphology of the snake.

To assess a snake's toxicity, there are only few tricks that can be employed. The pupil's form is the only one that is truly effective. Be careful though, as not all venomous snakes have split pupils, despite the fact that all snakes with slit pupils are poisonous.

It can be challenging to perform this one analysis of a snake's ryes since you need to get up close to the snake to make a determination.

The identification methodology we just gave you is actually used by snake experts to classify and identify a snake once it has been discovered.

These recommendations are then compared to a reference work or website. Many seasoned specialists can distinguish a snake just based on appearance. The sequential identification method, however, is the most useful for the rest of the population.

Keep in mind that all snakes have roughly triangular-shaped heads, and the majority of them have colored or patterned skin. You won't get any help from these hints. When in doubt, don't touch the snake you discovered hiding behind a rock!

There aren't many poisonous snakes in England, but if you're unfortunate enough to come across one, the venom might be very dangerous. We encourage you to read the post we wrote on snake venom if you want to learn more about it.

There are exclusions to every rule when it comes to dangerous snakes. The Black Mamba and the Coral Snake are the two most well-known. With its neurotoxic venom that affects the neurological system, the coral snake is among the deadliest snakes.

But it doesn't exhibit any of the warning signs of a snake threat. It features circular pupils and a spherical skull. The Coral is far less common and has much more color than other snakes. When red hits black, it is safe, so use this tip to be sure you are seeing a real coral snake. Yellow touches red; keep your distance!

3) How to find a snake in England?

The animal kingdom of snakes is incredibly diverse and remarkable. Do you have an intense interest in these small animals? I love that! Spend some time studying the identification procedure if you want to understand how to recognize snakes.

Visit zoos and pet shops, and especially venture outside to search for England's Snakes in both wild and less-wild locations! Utilize your powers of observation when you come across several to try to identify the snakes.

But take caution! Keep in mind that these creatures could still be quite dangerous, especially if you have no prior experience. Avoid getting too close or attempting to handle a snake if you locate one to prevent bites. You can also bring along a professional in the area while you go exploring!

Additionally, we would like to remind you that as snakes are considered an endangered species in England, they are legally protected. It is illegal to move, capture, or even kill a wild snake, but you never know. The erasure of their habitat can also do this. Please refrain from bringing them home to be kept in a terrarium!