Ladder Snake – Characteristics, Habitat and Behavior

Ladder snake: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. In this PlanèteAnimal file, we invite you to discover...

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In this PlanèteAnimal file, we invite you to discover information on the most common snake in certain countries of the European continent, the ladder snake. Curiously, this animal has been taxonomically identified in different ways, in fact, it was called Rhinechis scalaris and it was considered to belong to the genus Elaphe, but currently it corresponds to the species Zamenis scalaris. Read on and discover the main characteristics of this type of snake!


  • Europe
  • Spain
  • France
  • Portugal

Characteristics of the Ladder Snake

The main characteristics of the Ladder Snake are:

  • Average size: measuring on average about 1.5 meters in length.
  • Well differentiated head: wider in relation to the body.
  • Differences in the jaws: the upper jaw is slightly more prominent than the lower jaw.
  • Large scales on the head: especially those near the nasal area are protruding, while those on the rest of the body are smooth and smaller.
  • Black or dark eyes: with well-rounded pupils.
  • It's a robust and muscular animal.
  • Coloration varies with age: the young are lighter or whitish, they have a black pattern from behind the eyes to the mouth; adults, on the other hand, are yellowish or brownish.
  • Name based on its physique: the common name of the species is linked to two visible black lines that run longitudinally through the body on either side of the back: perpendicular to these lines are transverse marks, also black, which join the longitudinal stripes.
  • Modification of the spots: the adults lose the transverse spots and keep only those arranged longitudinally.
  • Sexual dimorphism: Although there is no marked sexual dimorphism, male snakes are generally slightly larger and have a broader head.

Ladder Snake Habitat

This snake is mainly present in Portugal and Spain, but it is absent from the vast majority of the North of these countries. It has also been reported in France and Italy. In its range there are islands where they have been introduced.

This snake can live at 2,200 meters above sea level. Its habitat consists mainly of Mediterranean ecosystems, generally sunny, rocky and with abundant vegetation. In addition, it is possible to find it in open forests, thickets, spaces bordering fields, cultivated areas of hedgerows, vineyards, olive groves, as well as meadows with weeds and even abandoned areas in ruins. .

Habits of the Ladder Snake

Ladder Snake activity and customs vary depending on time of year and weather. In some areas without such abrupt changes, this species is generally active throughout the year.

In regions where the changes are more accentuated, it has two periods of greatest activity:

  • In the spring
  • In autumn

Generally, she is usually active in the morning and afternoon. In summer, and especially young people, extend their outings at night. The Ladder Snake is an animal with fundamentally terrestrial habits, but it is also an excellent climber capable of climbing the walls of ruins.

On the other hand, it is a snake that tries to flee quickly and with agility as soon as it senses humans approaching. However, she can become aggressive if she is disturbed or feels threatened. She will also be aggressive when tending to her eggs.

Ladder Snake Feeding

The Ladder Snake is a carnivorous animal that actively hunts its prey on the roads it takes. Small and young individuals are content with small animals, but over time they will begin to hunt larger and larger prey. Its hunting technique is to catch its prey with its teeth, and in some cases it swallows it alive, but in others it chokes it by constriction and then eats it.

Among the animals that this snake consumes are birds, different types of rodents, including rabbits, invertebrates, other reptiles, and even eggs.

Reproduction of the Ladder Snake

It is an oviparous animal, which mates mainly at night in spring. After a month or a little more, the female lays between 5 and 25 eggs, which she will take care of and hatch for more than two months. The laying can be done under plants or she can also half bury her eggs.

The young are born in the fall, they are about 10 to 25 cm long and will not reach sexual maturity until about four years old.

Conservation status of the Ladder Snake

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the Ladder Snake as Least Concern because its population trend is stable.The species is abundant and does not present major threats, however, it is often the victim of road accidents and it is frequently run over. For a time, although it is now limited, some peasants used the fat of this snake to apply it to the wounds of their animals, such as sheep or goats.

The big concern that weighs on it is the conservation of its natural space because it is strongly threatened by agricultural expansion.

Ladder Snake photos

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