Snakes of France

Vipère d'Orsini
Vipera ursinii
Orsini's viper

Couleuvre vipérine
Natrix maura
Viperine snake

Couleuvre à collier
Natrix natrix
Grass snake


Couleuvre verte et jaune
Coluber viridiflavus
Western whip snake

Couleuvre d'Esculape
Elaphe longissima
Aesculapian snake


Couleuvre à échalons
Elaphe scalaris
Ladder snake

Coronelle de Bordeaux
Coronella girondica
Southern smooth snake


Couleuvre de Montpellier
Malpolon monspessulanus
Montpellier snake


Coronelle lisse
Coronella austriaca
Smooth snake


Vipère péliade
Vipera berus
Comon adder


Vipère aspic

Vipera aspis

Asp viper

Show a bit of caution when moving objects which are possible hiding places, don’t plunge your hand into the water meter box or other inspection point without first checking that it is empty and don’t walk around where you can’t see properly with bare feet and legs. Log piles are a frequent hiding place - even in winter.

If you do get bitten don’t panic.

This information is provided by Centre Antipoison, hôpital Salvator, 249 boulevard Sainte Marguerite, 13009 Marseille. on the subject of Asp viper bites, (Vipera aspis and Vipera aspis aspis), the same advice applies to the Common adder, (Vipera berus) in France. Some of this advice is for emergency staff.

Management of viper envenomation must follow strict rules both at the scene of the snake bite and during transportation to the hospital.

First aid at the scene immediately after the bite:
Immobilize the victim since any type of activity can increase spreading of the venom. Call for assistance as soon as possible. If the bite takes place in a remote area and it is necessary to seek a means of communication, the victim
can be carried (e.g.,children) but also left at the scene (preferably in the company of another person). The exact location of the bite scene must be specified. While waiting for assistance to arrive, remove tight clothing, jewellery (watches, bracelets, etc.) from the bitten extremity to avoid tightening due to swelling and, if possible, disinfect the wound. 

What not to do: Do not restrict circulation by applying a tight band or tourniquet. Do not promote spreading by administering drinks that increase heart rate (coffee or tea), performing mutilating acts such as wound incisions, suctioning, or cauterization. Alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs must be prohibited for bitten patients. Antivenom should not be administered without medical supervision. 

What is not useful: Immediate use of heparin or its derivatives is unnecessary. Injection of low molecular weight heparin may promote spreading of venom. Similarly administration of corticosteroids is not useful. Aspiration devices like pumps cannot extract venom deeply injected in the victim’s tissues.

Management during transportation to the hospital: The presence of any local manifestations indicates grade 1 envenomation and requires hospitalization. Placement of an intravenous line is a necessary precaution to allow immediate vascular filling by macromolecules in case of arterial hypo-tension. Non-sedating analgesics should be administered to patients in case of severe pain.

You can call any of the emergency numbers for help.

Dial.    15 for SAMU.    17 for Police.     18 for Pompiers.

Your pets and animals are also vulnerable to snake bite, if you suspect that your animal has been injured by a snake contact your vet without delay.

The regional information gives the main areas of distribution, species may be found outside of these areas perhaps as a result of accidental or deliberate transportation. 

The purpose of these fact pages is to provide basic information for everyday use about the species of snakes in France and where they are to be found.

When it comes to the subject of snakes there is an enormous amount of fear, misunderstanding and dislike from all sections of the community. Snakes, certainly in France, are generally harmless with one or two exceptions and even these would only be really dangerous to some susceptible people. Snakes are not normally easy to approach and will often flee as a person approaches, I have great difficulty observing them even when “creeping around”. 

However much you may dislike or fear them it's really important to understand that Snakes play an important role in our environment being both predator and prey, without them many other species would suffer or as in the case of the Short toed eagle not even be able to breed here. Their role as predator is described in the species lists, but it is equally important to realise that they also provide food for many species of bird and mammal; Harriers, Falcons, Herons, Magpies, Owls, Eagles, Foxes, Marten, Wild Boar and even frogs are some of the species which profit from "having a bit of snake" in their diet.