Some people worry about snakes in Cyprus. Should you? Are they a real risk?
We’ve only ever seen two snakes – one that slithered across a mountain track in front of us and one that had fallen into a swimming pool of a part-built villa in Peristerona (see above).
What are the facts?
There are eight species of snake in Cyprus, of which three are venomous. And of those, only one, the blunt nosed viper is dangerous to humans.
Snakes have two hibernation periods. In mountainous areas, hibernation begins in early November and is over by the end of April, while you can see snakes until the middle of January in coastal areas.
Should you worry about snakes?
Statistics point up that in Cyprus you are 1,000 times more likely to die in a road accident than from a snake bite. There’s no doubt, man has a far greater impact on snakes than vice versa.
If you should see a snake, stop and stand still. Don’t ever try to to touch or catch a snake. The snake will almost certainly go away, as it’s much more frightened of you than you are of it.
If bitten, don’t panic as the shock could kill you. Clean the wound with water and get to a hospital as quickly as possible. All hospitals on the island have antivenin on site.
It has been estimated that 16 to 20 people are bitten on the island every year, with the last fatality coming ten years ago when a Cypriot woman was bitten by a blunt nosed viper in Protaras.
If you feel at risk, you can buy a powerful repellent called Snake Buster. It is a wholly natural repellent and does not harm either snakes or household pets, and, like most repellents, it works on the principle of inhibiting the animal’s sensory perception. With one application to garden borders, entranceways, garages, woodpiles, sheds, playgrounds and edges of swimming pools, it can repel a blunt nosed viper and all other Cyprus snakes for a period of up to eight weeks.
Snakes you might find in Cyprus
The Worm Snake: Looks like an earthworm but can grow to about 30 centimetres and is either pink or beige in colour. Hunts only at night as the strong sun would kill it. Found in gardens and fields.
The Large Whip Snake: This is the most common of all snake species in Cyprus and can reach a length of two and a half metres. Initially olive green, with small brown lines. When mature, the colour changes to blue-black. Non-venomous, it kills via constriction. It has one peculiarity – it eats other snakes, including the blunt nosed viper. Can be found all over the island in fields, forests and even up trees where it raids birds nests.
The Cyprus Whip Snake: This egg-laying snake only exists in Cyprus. It’s non-venomous and, like the large whip snake, it changes colour as it matures to become almost black. Found only in forests, mainly by streams.
The Cyprus Grass Snake: The rarest and most endangered of Cypriot snakes, it emits a foul-smelling secretion that could clear a small village in a minute, along with any predators, if they feel threatened. Can swim very well and dines regularly on frogs and fish. It is non-venomous and is found only in the Paralimni Lake area. Thought to be almost extinct.
The Coin Snake: This non-venomous snake is commonly confused with the blunt nosed viper. It will hiss loudly if approached and will strike quickly. It lives on a diet of lizards and mice and can be found along the coast as well as on the higher reaches of the mountains.
The Cat Snake: The slowest of the snakes, it hunts at night and if threatened will wriggle into a ring-like shape, raise itself up like a coil and hiss like a cat. It’s venomous and should be left well alone. Never reported to have bitten a human though. Found in coastal areas and in the Troodos mountains.
The Montpellier Snake: This venomous snake has coarse scales that produce a grinding noise when the snake slithers across the grass. It lives in open fields or forests, in both coastal and mountain areas and hunt and kill in a manner similar to a Cobra, raising its body up to one third of its length from the ground, then striking quickly, mainly against lizards. Again, never reported to have bitten a human.
The Blunt Nosed Viper: The most dangerous snake on the island, it is extremely venomous and is so perfectly camouflaged that it’s very hard to spot, so be extra careful when walking. Loves swimming pools when the dry season is at its height. Get to a hospital fast if bitten. Found all over Cyprus, mainly by streams.
Have you seen a snake in Cyprus? Tell us about it!