Viperine snake

A viperine snake in Navarra

August 2004. I took this photo of a viperine snake (Natrix maura) last August at midday on a shaded stone wall just outside the village of Yesa in Valle de Roncal in Northern Navarra. A path wound its way up from the village to an old hermitage (la Ermita de Santa María). Like many in this part of Spain it is known as the Vía Crucis (Way of the Cross). The path is marked by 14 crosses, the 14 stations of the cross. They were a pious lot these Navarrans. Our friend the Viperine was resting opposite the second one, if I recall. Snake expert Cyberlizard at the excellent Reptiles and amphibians of Europe helped me identify it. After some debate he wrote:

…there is unanimous agreement that the snake is a Natrix maura , one of the fairly harmless (if occasionally stinky when musking) European water snakes. A very experienced friend wrote:

Natrix maura -Viperine Snake. Looks as if it is about to slough. Well marked specimens look incredibly like vipers, especially when they spread their head in a threat display. Some have very viperish zig zag markings whereas others are more like Dice Snakes and some are striped. Surprisingly they will eat earthworms. The give away is the round pupil and the eyes placed near the top of the head showing it to be aquatic in nature.

Snakes musk. More serpentine words here on this snake glossary here .

A foul smelling substance produced by scent glands in the base of the tail of some reptiles. Discharging musk out the vent may discourage an attacker.

Note: In Spanish it’s a Culebra viperina .

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