Green whip snake

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Green whip snake
Hierophis viridiflavus.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Hierophis
H. viridiflavus
Binomial name
Hierophis viridiflavus
(Lacépède, 1789)

Coluber gyarosensis Mertens, 1968
Hierophis gyarosensis (Mertens, 1968)

The green whip snake or western whip snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) is a species of snake in the family Colubridae.

Geographic range[edit]

This species is present in Andorra, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and possibly Luxembourg.[1]


Its natural habitats are temperate forests, temperate shrubland, Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation, arable land, pastureland, plantations, rural gardens, and urban areas.[1]


Close-up of the head

The green whip snake is a slender species with a small but well-defined head, prominent eyes with circular pupils, and smooth scales. The background colour is greenish-yellow but this is mostly obscured by heavy, somewhat irregular bands of dark green or black, particularly in the front half of the snake. The underparts are grey or yellowish and the tail has narrow longitudinal stripes. The young are a greyish colour and develop their full adult colouring by about their fourth year. This snake grows to a total length of about 150 cm (59 in).[2] In the northeastern part of its range, in Sicily and southern Italy, most individuals are blackish in colour. There is a larger, up to two metres long, often pure black variant - Coluber viridiflavus carbonarius (Bonaparte, 1833) - found in Italy and Malta.[3] referred to there as 'Il Biacco'.

Green Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus), Lorraine, France


The green whip snake has a wide distribution and is very common within that range. The population is steady and faces no significant threats, apart from road kill and persecution, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed its conservation status as being of "least concern".[1]


These snakes mainly feed on lizards, skinks, frogs, mice, as well as on the young and eggs of small birds. This species lays four to 15 eggs.[1] They are very lively and when cornered, may bite furiously. They hibernate in winter.[3]

Venom and toxicity[edit]

Commonly regarded as non-venomous, it is described that a subject who endured 'sustained biting' of up to 5 minutes began showing suspect symptoms, including problems with neuromotor skills.[4] It is described that a gland called the Duvernoy's gland, maybe similar to the venom gland, has some responsibility.


  1. ^ a b c d e Milan Vogrin; Claudia Corti; Valentin Pérez Mellado; Paulo Sá-Sousa; Marc Cheylan; Juan M. Pleguezuelos; Andreas Meyer; Benedikt Schmidt; Roberto Sindaco; Antonio Romano; et al. (2016) [errata version of 2009 assessment]. "Hierophis viridiflavus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009: e.T61449A86246670. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009.RLTS.T61449A12487580.en.
  2. ^ Arnold, E. Nicholas; Ovenden, Denys W. (2002). Field Guide: Reptiles & Amphibians of Britain & Europe. Collins & Co. p. 207. ISBN 9780002199643.
  4. ^ Some seemingly harmless snakes possess a secret venomous gland par Rachel Nuwer, October 18, 2013.