SNAKES – the misunderstood

It’s that time of year again when you’re likely to encounter these reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. As it happens, I am researching with a view to writing a book on this subject. Should be published by next year.

None of them are dangerous unless provoked.  If you’re worried, buy a first aid kit from the pharmacy for 14 euros just in case. It has everything you need to stop the venom from travelling, then get to the Health Centre.

Of the Colubridae Rat Snake family we have two types on Skopelos; Leopard (Elephe situla) Spitofido and Four lined (Lafiatis). They are the largest and grow up to 2 meters. Beautifully coloured. Seldom hiss and are calm. The 4 Lined are excellent climbers and swimmers. Some tourists can vouch for the former. One recently came ashore at Panormos, made its way along the beach then went back into the sea. They eat small mammals, birds and lizards. Non venomous.

Eastern Montpellier Malpolon insignitus  ( Sapethis or Savrofido). They grow up to 2 meters. Mildly venomous rear-fanged. Variable colours (green, black, grey, green) depending upon juveniles or adults/male or female. Feeds mainly on lizards, rodents, birds, amphibians and other snakes. It will defend strongly if threatened by hissing loudly, raising its head, flattening the neck and pretending to attack. It will bite if caught. Pain, swelling and maybe fever are symptoms that may occur that usually relent in a few hours.

Large Whip Snake – possibly Hierophis jungularis (Dendrogalia) Whilst they don’t usually occur on the same island as the Four Lined snake, it is believed they are here. The common black snake. One of the longest reaching sometimes up to 300cm. Very swift. Non poisonous.

Nose-horned Viper (Oxia). It has connecting brown spots, surrounded by black. Body grey.  When disturbed they hiss loudly. Highly venomous. Image by Costas Andreou.

The Chiroptera population

In August, Ioannis Ekklisiarchos, an MSc student in the department of Biology, University of Crete together with Dr Panagiotis Georgiakakis of the Natural History Museum, Crete, conducted an official study of our bat population. Six different species were found, five being rare and on the endangered list. We were aware of the existence of these species as a member of the UK Bat Society takes her holiday in Moutero every year and brings her detector with her but to have an official study carried out is excellent news.

Bats were given protection in a number of Decrees from 1969 to 1980. It is forbidden to catch, kill, sell or transport bats or own them. However, bat roosts are not protected unless they are within national parks. No attempt has been made to implement this legislation and the public are unaware of the need for bat conservation.

I do offer the use of a bat detector if you are interested in this subject.

Here is the list:

Rhinolophus blasii (Horseshoe) – rare

Pipistrellus pipstrellus – fairly rare

Pipistrellus nathusii – very rare

Pipistrellus kuhli – very common

Pipistrellus savii – rare

Eptesicus serotinus – rare