Summer is the ideal time for outdoor walks to reconnect with nature. But for ophidiophobes, these walks can be sources of anxiety. With the good weather and the heat, the snakes are out, even in the Cher. The department also has six of these cold-blooded animals: the asp viper as well as the grass snake, Aesculapius, bugloss, green and yellow and smooth coronella. “They are all spread out over the territory,” shares Antoine Colin, wildlife study officer at Nature 18.
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To increase the chances of the most curious of seeing them, it is necessary to privilege “the best hours which are in the afternoon, because it is the hottest moment of the day. Snakes absorb heat to keep warm, that’s why they like to get in the sun, ”explains the researcher. This way of life makes snakes poikilothermic animals, that is to say that their body temperature changes according to the environment in which they find themselves.
The asp viper, the only venomous one in the Cher
Each of the species mentioned above has its preferences in terms of environment. Some, like the grass snake or bugloss, particularly like aquatic environments. So if you live by a river, a pond, or have a pond in your garden, it’s not surprising to come across these specimens. The other snakes can be found in multiple places, more rocky for the smooth snake. “They can be in hedges, shrubs or at the edge of the forest where they are found the most, because that allows them to have a fallback solution in the event of a threat”, explains the specialist.
A green and yellow snake. Photo courtesy of Nature 18
The snakes certainly look threatening, but require a lot of care and attention. “All species of snakes are protected. We do not have the right to disturb their habitat, to kill them or to manipulate them, except with a certificate, ”warns the expert. Even if the animal is dead, it is also forbidden to move it. Anchored in customs, the apprehension of these reptiles is based on many received ideas, especially for the species present near us. “Snakes are not aggressive. If we don’t handle them, they won’t try to bite. Remote observation makes it possible to encounter the species without endangering anyone. »
If these species are not very reckless, it is still better to take precautions in the event of a face-to-face encounter with the asp viper which, unlike snakes, is venomous. “Venom takes a lot of their energy, so vipers only use it as a last resort. Snakes have their fangs tucked into a healthy part of their body, so even if bitten there is no pathogen. We can still disinfect just in case. But if you’re not sure you’ve dealt with a snake, you can go to the hospital as a precaution, ”says Antoine Colin.
We do not have the right to disturb their habitat, to kill them or to manipulate them.
Even a little knowledgeable, identifying the right species is not always easy. With its stocky body and its color, the bugloss snake takes on the appearance of a viper to appear more threatening and ward off potential danger. To be sure not to confuse the species, you have to focus on their eyes. For their part, the vipers have a vertical pupil, while for the snakes, it is round. Other particularities can differentiate them, such as their size – snakes are generally larger – or the shape of their head. In the snake, it is rather oval while the viper has a more triangular head.
Grass snake. Photo courtesy of Nature 18
For specialists, studying these oviparous is not the easiest job. “We have little data on snakes, says Antoine Colin. It’s partly because of a dirty-headed crime that they suffer. We can’t really manage to give a status to this population. But we know that there are fewer of them in the region, because we see fewer and fewer crushed ones, especially along the roads. »
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To help specialists, various tools allow individuals to provide information on their wildlife observations on the territory. “There is the Fauna Cher website and the NaturaList application which allow you to locate individuals and feed the Cher database”, suggests Antoine Colin. The educational challenge is therefore essential so that the population learns to know the snakes better in order to cohabit with them without apprehension and to help the associations to better identify the populations.
Slow worm, a snake-like lizard
A slow worm. Photo courtesy of Nature 18
Cousin of vipers and grass snakes, the slow worm does not however belong to the family of snakes. Despite its resemblance to the latter, this oviparous legless, or legless, and completely harmless, is one of the lizards. “The slow worm is often confused with snakes. We generally associate the crawling aspect with the snake, but it is indeed a lizard”, supports Antoine Colin, in charge of fauna study at Nature 18. To differentiate it, it is enough to look at its eyes. If it winks, it’s a slow worm, because the snake does not have an eyelid, but a transparent membrane.
The slow worm present in the Cher measures a few tens of centimeters, fifty at most. Like other members of its species, the slow worm can lose its tail when threatened, which also earned it the nickname “glass snake”.