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Bastard Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus). Great Malaga Path

Diputación de Málaga

Bastard Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus). Great Malaga Path

IDENTIFICATION  

This is a large but not very strong snake. It is the biggest snake that we can find in the province, as it can be nearly 2 meters long (normally 150 cm). Its head and its tail are narrow and long. The scales around its eyes are prominent on its head, forming a protrusion resembling an eyebrow, giving it a special profile.  Pupils are round and the frontal scale (located on the upper part of the head, just in the middle) is twice as long as it is wide. The scales are smooth (without any long and prominent midway line), they are not shiny and are a bit depressed in the middle. Adult males are uniformly green, with an ashen black spot in the first third of the body (called "riding saddle"); whereas females and young snakes are a russet brown, with a regular spotted brown, white and black pattern. Male and female's abdomen is white or smooth dirty-yellowish coloured.

WHERE DOES IT LIVE (HABITAT)? 

A typical specimen of the Mediterranean mountains. It lives in nearly every type of hills with natural vegetation and warm and sunny environment. It can easily adapt to places altered by people and it is very common in agricultural areas, as well as in urban centres, suburbs and small villages.

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

It is a snake with terrestrial and daytime habits. It likes having long sun baths in stony places, cairns and rock walls, where it can actively hunt.  It has a very diverse diet: from insects (especially young ones) to chicken and bird eggs, little mammals and other reptiles. Sometimes it ingests decaying flesh. It can be aggressive if someone tries to catch it and it could even bite. It is an opisthoglyphous snake: that means it has special teeth at the back of its mandible to release venom. These teeth are ribbed and connected to venom glands, but its position makes it complicated to release venom to humans if bitten. The bite is not dangerous; it can cause a small reaction, but it usually does not represent a real danger for people who endure it.

HOW DOES IT REPRODUCE ITSELF?

The mating period lasts from May to June. Some 20-30 days after mating, a female lays between 3 and 15 eggs in a humid and sunny place (under leaves, in holes between rocks, dumps, under trunks, rabbit holes or abandoned beehives...). Pups are born from August to September and are very small (20-30 cm) compared to  adults.

WHERE CAN WE FIND IT IN MALAGA AND ON THE STAGES OF THE GREAT PATH?

It is a common species. It is one of the most common snakes; it is very easy to observe, because of its population density and ubiquity. Its size and day-time habits helps to detect it. It is very common in the province of Málaga. Although we can find it all over the province, it is more common in protected areas (the west half part of the province and mountain ranges), and sparser in modified areas (northern farming lands, Costa del Sol...). We can find it on every stage of the Great Path (Gran Senda).

LEVEL OF PROTECTION - THREATENED (INVENTORY)

The bastard snake is not part of the Wildlife Species under Special Protection List, which means that it is not a protected species. It is a common species, but it seems to be regressing due to the alteration of its habitat, barrages reduction, being frequently run over or even directly persecuted, considered as a poisonous snake or as an animal eating to much game meat.

CURIOUS FACTS  

In the popular culture of Málaga, the bastard snake is named "seatón". One of the beliefs about this species makes reference to its ability to run after and catch the unfortunate people who come across it. It is able to bite its own tail to form a wheel and chase very fast prey. Another belief assigns the snake the habit of protecting itself burying its head and lashing its prey with its tail. Actually it is a very elusive animal, which would always try to avoid meeting people. It would demonstrate aggressiveness only when it has no choice; it would then try to frighten people considered as its aggressors by snorting and moving its head. Biting would be the last option, normally induced by the imprudence to get to close to the snake.

SIMILAR TYPES (IT CAN ME MISTAKEN WITH...) 

It can be mistaken for the adult grass necklace snakes, as they are greenish too and have lost their necklace. The grass snake has smooth scales, orange iris and a large head, with a frontal scale which is a bit longer than larger (although much longer on the bastard snake). Furthermore, "the riding saddle" does not exist on the grass snake, which is an aquatic type.

Routes where it can be observed

Animal Life > Reptiles
Medios
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