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Four-lined snakes are the longest snake species in Europe and are well suited to the Mediterranean climate. As their name suggests, they have four dark stripes running all along their body. They mostly live in dry bushes and woodlands but are often found in trees and abandoned buildings. Their diet consists of lizards, rats, and birds, and they are active hunters. Recent history indicates a fast decline in the number of this unique venomous snake species. Factors like poaching and habitat loss are threatening their survival in the wild. They have now been listed as a Near Threatened species by the IUCN. Serious conservation efforts should be undertaken via on-site conservation and awareness through media coverage which can help conserve these serpents.
Want to know more about the four-lined snake? Keep on reading the article below.
The four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) is the largest and most common snake species in Europe. It is also known as the four-lined rat snake.
The four-lined snake belongs to the class of Reptilia, usually found active in open areas and in trees.
Authentic information on the exact number of four-lined snakes present in the world is not available. However, it may be ascertained that their population is dwindling fast because of habitat loss.
This snake species is found mostly in countries in Europe such as Bulgaria, the Balkan peninsula, Greece, Italy, Albania, and the coastal regions of Croatia and Slovenia.
They are found to be slithering around in a variety of places like open woodlands, bushes, forest fringes, stony walls, and abandoned buildings. They mostly prefer a dry yet cool climate interspersed with short rainy spells. They may climb trees when the ground is wet.
Four-lined snakes often live in solitude, enjoying their private time. However, groups of six or seven snakes are often found dwelling inside the burrows of rodents during winter.
At present, sufficient information about the average lifespan of a four-line snake is not available. But it may be comparable to that of the black ratsnake, which lives for 10-15 years in the wild. The life expectancy of the individuals kept under conservation increases considerably up to 25-30 years.
The male and female four-lined snakes mate for four to five hours, between mid-morning and late afternoon. April to June is the perfect time for breeding. Females may lay 6-18 eggs at a time and hide them from sight behind and beneath bushes. The females incubate the eggs for 40-60 days, after which the eggs hatch. Juveniles are fed until they become independent.
The four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) is listed as a Near Threatened species in the IUCN Red List. Rapid habitat destruction due to conversion and reclamation of agricultural lands has threatened their survival. The sale of four-lined snakes as pets has also led to their declining population. Poaching of this snake species for their skins is common and has massively threatened their population size. On-site conservation and media awareness of this species can help in checking their population size.
As the name suggests, they have four alternating stripes of two yellow and two blackish-brown stripes, starting from the crown of their head to the tip of their tail. The underside is cream to white with a number of patchy dark brown markings. Their unique body-color camouflages them in their habitat and they cannot be spotted easily unless they move.
Some people find the dorsal stripes on the glossy body of the four-lined snake to be beautiful. In contrast, most see these snakes as creepy-crawlies that do not look adorable enough to be called cute.
Unlike other snakes, individuals of the four-lined species do not communicate much and remain calm and silent. They raise their head and stick out their fangs producing a typical hissing sound to ward off predators and escape danger.
The size of these individuals is 71-95 in (180-240 cm). They are the longest snake species in Europe. These four-lined snakes are eight times bigger than brown snakes.
Although the exact speed of an active four-lined snake is not known, it can be ascertained that they can slither quite swiftly when in search of prey or to escape from predators.
Adults can reach a length of 95 in (240 cm), but their weight is not known.
There are no sex-specific names for this species of snake.
A baby four-lined snake can be called a snakelet or a neonate.
The four-lined snake is a reptile with a carnivorous diet. Its diet usually includes small mammals and rodents like rabbits, turtles, mice, rats, squirrels, eggs of birds, and small to medium-sized lizards.
The four-lined snake venom ejected from the fangs is capable of producing enough poison to kill their prey instantly. They may also catch prey by wrapping around them, constricting their prey with their thick muscles.
Home is not a good place to keep the largest European serpents. Being carnivorous, four-lined snakes can pose a danger to your family or to other pets at home. Since these snakes are now listed as a Near Threatened species, petting them at home away from their natural habitat reduces their population in the wild.
The best time to search for and see a four-lined snake in Europe is in the morning and in the late afternoon.
Juveniles are smaller in size and lighter in color than adults.
The four-lined snake may swallow their prey whole.
They search for their prey in the dark and can see well at night.
The diet of the females mostly consists of birds and eggs, while rodents like rats and mice mostly dominate a male's diet.
The four dorsal stripes of yellow and brownish-black on the body of the four-lined snake are what make them unique and different from other species. The contrasting dark and light stripes across the entire length of their body also helps them to camouflage easily on rocky and bushy surfaces.
Recent articles suggest that the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata), or the Bulgarian rat snake, has been listed as a Near Threatened species by the IUCN. They are on the verge of becoming Endangered. This is a consequence of the reckless poaching of these snakes for their skin. Additionally, they are killed or poisoned in agricultural fields to safeguard the farmers. Habitat loss due to agricultural practices, and the selling of these snakes to keep as pets has also led to the rapid decline in their numbers.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these scarlet snake facts and rat snake facts for kids.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable snake coloring pages.
Second image by Bernard DuPont.
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