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Snakes In Portugal: Names, Types, Species

Reema Bharti

Reema Bharti

· 6 min read

Portugal's diverse landscape provides a habitat for a variety of snake species, each with its own unique characteristics and importance to the ecosystem, from the venomous viper to the harmless grass snake.

Understanding the types, names, and species of snakes in Portugal offers insight into the natural world and also encourages a deeper appreciation for the complex web of life within the region.

From the coastal regions to the rural countryside, snakes play an integral role in Portugal's ecosystem.

These reptiles play a crucial role in the country's biodiversity.

Types of Snakes In Portugal

There are various types of snakes in Portugal including Ladder snakes, Horseshoe whip, Viperine water, Montpellier, False Smooth snake, Iberian Worm Lizard, and Seoane’s Viper

Portugal, with its diverse landscapes ranging from lush forests and sprawling plains to rugged mountains and scenic coastlines, offers a unique habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including an unusual species of snake. While the thought of encountering a snake might evoke a sense of apprehension in some, it's important to remember that these reptiles play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling pest populations. 

Complete descriptions are provided for each of the snake species. Also, information on their sizes, unique colors, and markings is explained. 

So if you are an animal enthusiast, then you must visit Portugal and see the wide variety of wildlife.

You will also get to know about the significance of properly identifying snakes found in Portugal and obtaining health care if bitten, as some of them are dangerous.

Small snake

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

The Ladder Snake, also known as Rhinechis scalaris, is one of the most widely found snakes in its range. The Ladder Snake, a medium-sized, non-venomous species, is easily identifiable by its distinctive ladder-like markings on a brownish-yellow body.

It is a medium-sized snake and comes under the category of non-poisonous snakes in Portugal. The size averages to 1.5 meters with a maximum length of 160 cm (63 in). 

The body of this snake has ladder-like markings along its back and it is slim, brownish yellow just like its name.

In both the Azores and mainland Portugal, the ladder snake finds its home. This species is commonly found in woodlands, forests, and rocky areas throughout the country. Being an expert climber, this snake is frequently seen on rocks or in trees. 

Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Horseshoe Whip Snakes are scientifically known as Hemorrhois hippocrepis, typically reaching an average length of 160 cm (62 in). As they grow older, they become darker in color.  Mostly they are found in gray, yellow, and olive colors.

These snakes have a row of oval, dark points on the back with small areas of darkness. They also have a dark band between the eyes and a dark horseshoe-shaped mark on the neck.

The Horseshoe whip snake has a narrow body and a head that is larger than its neck. There is a row of tiny scales beneath the large, circular pupil of the eye.

Horseshoe snake

Viperine Water Snake (Natrix maura)

The viperine snake is scientifically known as Natrix maura. Usually, the viperine snakes have a length of 70 to 100 cm. Viperine snakes look like vipers and have a thin, medium-sized body structure. These are not poisonous.

Viperine Water Snake has brownish and blackish dark spots running through its back. Portugal's mainland as well as the small islands of Madeira and the Azores are home to the viperine snake. It is frequently found in wetlands, which include lakes, ponds, and rivers. 

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Montpellier Snakes are scientifically known as Malpolon monspessulanus. Montpellier Snakes are large, non-venomous reptiles that can grow up to 2 meters in length. Common in southern Europe, including Portugal, they inhabit a variety of environments such as rocky areas, grasslands, and woodlands. These snakes are primarily found in the Alentejo and Algarve regions but are also present in the Azores and Madeira. They are well-adapted to climbing and can often be found in bushes and trees, showcasing their versatility in different habitats.

Western Montepellier Snakes

False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon brevis)

Macroprotodon brevis, the scientific name for the False Smooth Snake, represents a species of small, non-venomous snakes that pose no harm to humans. With an average length of 30 to 60 cm, these slender-bodied snakes exhibit brown or pale grey coloring. Found across Portugal's mainland as well as the islands of Madeira and the Azores, the False Smooth Snake typically inhabits arid environments, favoring rocky hillsides and sandy patches. Their presence underscores the diverse reptile fauna of the region, thriving in a variety of habitats.

Western False Smooth snake

Seoane's Viper (Vipera seoanei)

Seoane’s Vipers is also known as Vipera Seoanei. These vipers are harmful to people. They are around 60 to 75 cm long and are often called Baskian vipers.

Seoane's Vipers are a type of venomous snake found primarily in France, Portugal, and Spain. Preferring moist, warm habitats, they mainly feed on small mammals. These vipers are nocturnal creatures and are often encountered in urban areas, although they thrive in forests, grasslands, and shrubby regions. Characteristically, they have light-colored backs adorned with darker zigzag or straight stripes, making them distinct in their various habitats.

Baskian Viper

Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus cinereus)

Blanus cinereus is the scientific name for the Iberian Worm Lizard. These snakes are pinkish-brown in appearance, and their scales are smooth. They have a cylindrical shaped body. Portugal's mainland as well as the islands of Madeira and the Azores are home to this snake. It is frequently found in agricultural fields, gardens, and wooded regions. 

Among the snake species found in Portugal, the worm lizard stands out with its distinctive appearance. With a length ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 meters, it showcases a pale grey coloration with dark blotches along its body. Known for its ability to lure prey, it can be found in warm habitats, often near loose rocks and pine trees.

Most Venomous Snakes in Portugal

The most venomous snakes in Portugal are Lataste's Viper (Vipera latastei) and Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus). Every detail of these species is mentioned in detail below.

Portugal is also home to the European adder and asp viper, both of which are venomous. These snakes have specialized venom that they use for hunting and self-defense. 

It's important to exercise caution when exploring natural habitats, especially in rural areas. If you come across a snake, it is best to maintain a safe distance and give it space to retreat. 

It is also advisable to wear appropriate footwear and clothing to minimize the risk of snake bites. Additionally, educating yourself about the local snake species and their habitats can help you make informed decisions while enjoying outdoor activities in Portugal.

These snakes are known for their potent venom and can pose a risk to humans if bitten. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately. 

Remember, prevention is key, so it's best to stay informed and understand the local wildlife when exploring nature.

The snakes found in Portugal hardly have venom in them. Still, there are a few species that are poisonous and harmful to humans.

Lataste's Viper (Vipera latastei)

Scientifically known as Vipera latastei, it has a length of around 60 cm. These are mostly beige, dark grey, or light to dark brown colored having zig-zag lines on the back.

Lataste's Vipers can be found in southwestern Portugal including at various altitudes. They can be found on sunny rocky slopes in the Sierra Nevada, open deciduous forests, rocky places with stone walls, and coastal dunes with umbrella pines.

Lataste's vipers are poisonous, and their venom is strong. Therefore it is one of the dangerous animals to humans and hence precautions must be taken while traveling to Portugal.

Venomous Viper

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

At up to two meters in length, the Montpellier snake is the largest in both Europe and the coast of Spain.

Male adults have uniform colors ranging from light to dark grey to olive green to brown, with a long, thin tail.

This species has venom.

For humans, the Montpellier snake poses no threat. The venom is not very harmful, and the back teeth lessen the chance of venom injection.

Common Portuguese Snake Species 

Common Portuguese Snake species are Montpellier and Iberian worm snakes.

Portugal is known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. It is home to a wide variety of snake species. The Montpellier snake is a non-venomous species that can be found in various habitats throughout Portugal, including forests, shrublands, and grasslands.

From non-venomous to venomous, these slithering creatures play an essential role in maintaining the delicate balance of the country's ecosystems. Some snakes are non-venomous and play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. If you are unsure what species of snake you may have come across, it is always best to err on the side of caution and give it plenty of space.

Montpellier snake

The Montpellier Snake is found primarily in southern Portugal, specifically in the Alentejo and Algarve. It can also be found on a number of islands, such as the Azores and Madeira.

This snake is a skilled climber that is frequently spotted in bushes and trees, where it looks for food. It is mostly a diurnal snake, which means that daytime is when it is most active.

A range of food, including small animals, birds, reptiles, and even other snakes, is consumed by the Montpellier Snake, which is recognized for its opportunistic feeding habits.

Despite its massive size and intimidating look, the Montpellier Snake is not poisonous and is completely safe to humans.

Iberian worm snake

The Iberian worm snake is found on the mainland as well as in Madeira and the Azores. As a nocturnal species, it prefers to be active during the night, making it a rare sight during the day.

Unlike venomous snakes, the Iberian worm snake poses no threat to humans as it is non-venomous. With its main diet consisting of earthworms and other small invertebrates, it spends most of its time burrowing beneath the soil in search of food.

Due to its small size and non-aggressive nature, the bite of the Iberian worm snake is not harmful to humans. Being naturally shy creatures, encounters with these snakes are infrequent, adding to their elusive nature.


What types of Snakes Can be Found in Portugal's Forests?

A diverse range of snake species can be found in the forests of Portugal, each adapted to the country's varied habitats. Among these, the Iberian viper, with its distinctive zigzag pattern, is well-known. Non-venomous species like the ladder snake and the Iberian grass snake are also common, thriving in both woodland and near-water environments.

The majority of snakes in Portugal are harmless to humans, with the Iberian viper being a notable exception due to its venom. However, encounters with venomous species are rare as they tend to avoid populated areas. Exploring Portugal's forests offers a unique opportunity to witness the fascinating world of these reptiles in their natural habitat, adding to the region's rich biodiversity.


1. What types of snakes can be found in Portugal?

Types of snakes found in Portugal are Ladder snakes, Horseshoe whip, Viperine water, Montpellier, False Southern Smooth snake, Iberian Worm Lizards, Iberian false smooth snakes, Iberian grass snakes, and Seoane’s Viper.

2. Are there venomous snakes found in Portugal?

Yes, there are venomous snakes found in Portugal. The most venomous snakes of Portugal are Lataste's Viper (Vipera latastei) and western Montpellier Snakes (Malpolon monspessulanus). The Violin Spider is another dangerous animal in Portugal. They are typically found in sandy soil around loose rocks.

3. Where are the best places to spot snakes in the Portugal city?

The best places to spot snakes are southern Portugal and the islands of Azores and Madeira. They are mostly found in shrubs, trees, and bushes.

4. How do the snakes of Portugal contribute to the local ecosystem?

Snakes of Portugal contribute to the local ecosystem by eating worms and small insects to maintain the food chain.

5. What should I do if I encounter a snake in Portugal?

If you encounter a snake in Portugal, you must immediately visit a doctor or ask for help from people around you.

Reema Bharti

Reema Bharti

I am a globe-trotter with a passion for exploration. From the sun-kissed coasts of Portugal to the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland, my travels are as diverse as they are inspiring. My journeys through Spain, Finland, Austria, and Germany have fueled my soul and shaped my writing.