Snakes in Russia: Discovering Its Various Snake Species

When we think of Russia, the first thing that comes to mind is usually snow-covered landscapes and big, fearsome animals like the Siberian tiger or the snow leopard. But Russia’s varied landscape–from deserts to marshes to mountains–makes it a great home for a wide variety of snakes.

About 50 species of snakes live in Russia, and because of the country’s varied landscapes, they are very distinct from each other in physical appearance and behavior. Among these 50 species, there are about 11 venomous species, such as the Common European Adder.

This article will discuss the most commonly found species, as well as the ones that you should steer clear of, what they look like, how they behave, and where they live. Read on to learn more about the snakes that call Russia home.

1. Common European Adder

One of Russia’s most common snake species is the Common European Adder. It’s also called the Common Northern Viper and has the scientific name Vipera berus

The species can also be found in Europe, Africa, and Asia. And because of their numbers, they are not considered endangered.

Physical Appearance

This venomous snake grows large and heavy-bodied, up to 35.43 in (90 cm) in length in adulthood. 

Its color patterns also vary from snake to snake, with some having light-colored bodies with dark brown zigzag patterns throughout their length, while others have very faint markings. Some adders also appear to be completely black with no apparent dorsal markings.


Sleep patterns of the Common European Adder vary depending on where they live. Those in the north are diurnal, meaning they are awake during the day. Meanwhile, those found in the southern regions of the country are nocturnal

They also prefer to be solitary and come together only during the breeding and hibernation seasons. They are ambush predators that usually eat small mammals, like rodents, but they have also been reported to feed on birds. 


The Common European Adder is largely terrestrial and can be found in forests, woodlands, and temperate grasslands. Unfortunately, with the human invasion of their natural habitat, many of these snakes may now be seen in residential areas

Although not as aggressive as other snakes, they should be avoided at all costs because they will bite when threatened, and their venom is dangerous to human beings. People who’re bitten experience severe pain and dizziness, but the venom is usually not life-threatening. 

2. Siberian Pit Viper

In contrast to the first snake species is the rarely seen Siberian Pit Viper, with the scientific name Gloydius halys. This viper is another venomous snake rarely seen because of its secretive nature and preference for hiding from sight. 

The Siberian Pit Viper can be found not only in Russia but in some parts of Asia and are not of any concern conservation-wise.

Physical Appearance

The Siberian Pit Viper typically grows up to 23.23 in (59 cm) in length and comes in various colors, such as gray, light brown, reddish, and yellowish. They also have a distinct stripe behind their eye and two other parallel stripes above and below. 

They also have dark crossbars or spots; when viewed from the side, it can look like their snouts are slightly upturned.


The Siberian Pit Viper is rarely observed, so very little is known about their eating habits or venom aside from the venom being poisonous and even lethal for their prey. 

It’s believed, however, that Siberian Pit Vipers feed on small mammals, but some have been reported to feed on bats and amphibians like frogs.


Siberian Pit Vipers are typically found in mountainous regions and are known to be solitary. Although venomous, they prefer to hide away from predators instead of fighting. So when you encounter a Siberian Pit Viper, refrain from displaying threatening movements like shouting, and wait for the snake to flee from sight.

3. Grass Snake

The Grass Snake is the most common snake species in Russia. They are also non-venomous snakes but will display threatening behavior when provoked or in the presence of a predator. 

Such behavior includes giving off a smelly odor, hissing, and even imitating a cobra by raising its head and neck and flattening its head so it appears to have a cobra’s hood.

These snakes are not aggressive and rarely attack, even when captured. Also, when their other attempts at scaring larger animals away don’t work, they often play dead, letting their tongue hang from their mouth.

While playing dead, Grass Snakes may also secrete blood from their mouth in an attempt to frighten predators away. 

Physical Appearance

Grass Snakes are large, growing up to 59.06 in (150 cm) when mature, and are typically greenish or brownish-green in color. They also have a distinct color below their heads, which can be yellow or black. 

Throughout the length of their bodies, there usually are black or dark brown spots or bars. 


Grass snakes are very good swimmers. They hunt amphibians, like frogs, and, unlike other snakes, are not ambush predators. They actively hunt their prey using their keen senses of sight and smell. Interestingly, they also do not immobilize their prey before consumption but eat it alive.

They are also diurnal creatures that are active during the day and sleep at night. They prefer to be solitary and may come together only to mate or hibernate. 


With amazing swimming skills, Grass Snakes prefer to live in wetlands, open woodlands close to freshwater, woodland barriers, or ponds and streams. Unfortunately, with human impact affecting grasslands, large populations of Grass Snakes are being forced to look for other habitats. 

They can live in modified habitats, such as residential areas, so long as there are water sources nearby. And because of their non-aggressive and non-threatening temperament, they are easy to co-exist with. 

Despite large swathes of grasslands disappearing in recent years, Grass Snake populations are not yet considered a conservation concern. However, in some parts of Europe, they are already considered protected species, and catching them is prohibited.

4. Smooth Snake

Another type of snake seen in Russia is the Smooth Snake, so named because of its smooth scales. The scales are so smooth that when you run your hands down the length of its body, it will feel completely smooth to the touch. 

Smooth Snakes are also non-venomous and very secretive. They prefer to hide from sight or camouflage themselves when basking.

Physical Appearance

Smooth snakes are usually dark brown or gray, with a large mark on their heads that looks like a crown. They also have dark brown or black spots that run throughout the length of their slender bodies and can grow up to 29.53 in (75 cm) long. 

Their long, slender bodies also help them hide effectively in plain sight, blending in with foliage or rocks when they surface to bask. 

Smooth snakes feed on other reptiles, like lizards, worms, and small mice, which they constrict using their body before consumption.


Smooth snakes live in sandy landscapes, mixed woodlands, and rocky terrains. They prefer places with vegetation or ample cover. However, due to their secretive nature, they are very tricky to spot, even when they are right in front of you!

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