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Horseshoe snake: how dangerous are the snakes in Mallorca?

by Peter Carstens
Mallorca vacationers have been startled in the past few days by reports of a snake plague. What's up We answer the most important questions

Is there a plague of snakes in Mallorca?

Especially in the northeast of the holiday island there seems to be an increasing number of encounters with horseshoe snakes (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) get. Since the animals have no natural enemies, they have been able to spread well in recent years. To speak of a plague is, however, according to the biologist Tom Kirschey from the Naturschutzbund Deutschland (Nabu) "strongly exaggerated".

How dangerous is the horseshoe snake?

Horseshoe snakes are non-toxic. However, if they feel cornered, they can become aggressive. However, this also applies to cats and other animals, says Kirschey. He doubts the species is more aggressive than others. However, you should avoid being bitten as much as possible. Because the bite wounds can be deep and inflamed.

What does she look like?

The horseshoe snake is one thing above all: quite large - up to 1.90 meters long. The sight of such an animal is not only unusual for Central European tourists and arouses fear. Especially when the animal is ready to attack and hisses. You can recognize the species by its drawing: a row of diamond-shaped or oval spots runs over its back, two black cross bars run over its head, one between the eyes and one - horseshoe-shaped - behind it.

What should I do if I encounter a horseshoe snake?

Horseshoe snakes not only feel at home in the lonely mountains, but apparently also in the vicinity of human settlements, in vineyards, olive and almond groves and in natural gardens. So wherever you can find food, such as mice. Anyone who discovers an adder in their vicinity should behave calmly and slowly move away. In no case should the snake be irritated or cornered. Because the animal only attacks when it feels threatened.

Where does the horseshoe snake come from?

Originally the adder was not native to the Balearic Islands, but to the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. For about 14 years it has apparently been introduced to the holiday islands with plants from the mainland - just like the lizard snake and the stair snake, which are also harmless.

What are the Mallorcan authorities doing?

This year alone, 200 snakes have been caught and killed on the holiday island, and 600 on the island of Formentera since November last year. The authorities have even posted building instructions for snake traps online. Kirschey doubts that this is the right way to go. "It would be better to first observe the species and how it spreads and examine the effects on the ecosystem," says the Nabu expert.

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