Although mainly diurnal it will also hunt at dusk and during the night in hot conditions, the young are nocturnal. Being discrete and fearful it flees from any disturbance taking cover in a hole in the ground or hollow tree, however they become extremely irritated when cornered, hissing furiously and sometimes biting if handled. Very susceptible to cold – hibernation takes place from October until April.
Coupling takes place in April / May or a little later at higher altitudes or if weather conditions are poor. About 12 eggs are deposited under an old tree stump or a layer of pine needles in July, hatching can take anything from 6 to 12 weeks dependent upon the temperature.
The Couleuvre à échelons is a medium large snake, older females attaining 1.7 metres, but 1 metre is the average length. The head is quite prominent and distinct from the body, almost a squashed egg shape, small non prominent eyes with round pupils. The adult colour is uniform, shades of greys or browns, the back well marked with two darker longitudinal parallel bands; in the juveniles these bands are joined transversely by a series of bold bands and it is from this marking that its name is derived.
Population: in decline NOT VENOMOUS
Only to be found in the south of France, preferred habitats are dry and sunny, often slightly barren, with bushy scrub. Prey is mainly small mammals or birds; older, larger snakes will kill fairly large prey by constriction and then consume the dead creature slowly, starting with the head. Very young mainly eat insects.