Blotched snake (Elaphe sauromates)


Elaphe sauromates was initially called Elaphe quatuorlineata sauromates – the fourlined snake. Presently this taxon was raised to the rank of species [9; 11; 14]. In Romania it is known as the Dragon of Dobrogea.

The blotched snake is not a venomous snake. It is a large size snake sometimes reaching 2,6 meters in length. It lives in European Turkey, north-east of Greece, south-east of Bulgaria, south-east of Romania, south-east of Russia, the Caucasus Mountains, Asia Minor and Persia [4; 5].

The Geographic Range of Elaphe sauromates in Europa [6]

The Geographic Range of Elaphe sauromates in Europa [6]

In Romania, Elaphe sauromates was registered in the counties of Iași, Vrancea, Galați, Tulcea, Constanța, Buzău [1; 3; 4; 5; 7; 10; 12]. Most of the populations are presently extinct [8].

The Geographic Range of Elaphe sauromates in Romania [2]

The Geographic Range of Elaphe sauromates in Romania [2]

The distribution of this highly endangered species cannot be a truly satisfactory one at the level of Romania because the species is on the way to extinction.

Morphology. It is one of the largest snakes in Romania sometimes reaching up to 2,6 meters in length. The head and the tail are elongated and the snout is flat. The eyeball is round and the nostril is situated between the nasal and the postnasal. The rostral is wider than it is high, the frontal is shorter than the parietals, large preocular, small subocular, it has 2-3 postoculars, temporals 5 or 7, 8 supralabial scales. The 25 dorsal scales are disposed on a transversal row and slightly keeled, ventral plates are between 195-234, the subcaudals between 56-90 and the anal is whole or divided [4; 5].

Its color is dark brown or red-brown on a yellowish-white background. The head is homogenously dark brown with a lighter post-occipital spot; a dark line stretches from the eye to the corner of the mouth, line which is characteristic to most of the species of the Elaphe genus. Four longitudinal non-confluent rows of large brown spots can be differentiated on the dorsal part of the body. The ventral part of the body is yellow, sometimes spotted with brown. Juveniles are grey or yellowish-brown with 4 or 5 rows of brown or black spots [4; 5].

Ecology. Elaphe sauromates lives in steppe regions, being often found near human settlements or even under the attic of the houses. It is a good climber and it moves relatively slowly. It only bites when captured. Its food consists of rodents, birds and some lizards which it kills by constriction. It hunts from dawn till dusk [4; 5; 8].

Reproduction. Takes place in June and July and females lay their eggs at the latest at the end of July. 6 to 16 eggs are laid into the soil and the babies hatch after 2,5-3 months (September-October), measuring about 15 cm in length [4; 5].

Legislation. In Romania the species is protected by Law no.13 of 1993, by which Romania ratifies the Berne Convention (Annex II), European Directive 92/43/EEC (Annex II and IV), Law no. 462/2001 regarding the state of natural protected areas, the conservation of natural habitats, of the wild flora and fauna (Annex III and IV) and also by Government Emergency Ordinance no. 57/2007 regarding the state of natural protected areas, the conservation of natural habitats, of the wild flora and fauna, approved with subsequent amendments and supplements (Annex III and IV A), being considered a community interest species which requires strict protection and the conservation of which requires the designation of special conservation areas [15; 16; 17; 18].


1. Băcescu M., (1937): Câteva interesante date herpetologice pentru fauna României şi unele propuneri de rezervaţii naturale în legătură cu ele. Revista Ştiinţifică “V. Adamachi” 23 (3): 122-128. [in Ro]

2. Cogălniceanu D., Rozylowicz L., Székely P., Samoilă C., Stănescu F., Tudor M., Székely D., Iosif R., (2013): Diversity and distribution of reptiles in Romania, ZooKeys 341: 49-76.

3. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Ghira I., Cicort-Lucaciu A.Şt., Sas I., Strugariu A., Bogdan H.V., (2006): Contributions to knowledge regarding the geographical distribution of the herpetofauna of Dobrudja, Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 2 (2): 88-125.

4. Fuhn I.E., Vancea Şt., (1961): “Fauna R.P.R.”, vol. XIV, Fascicolul II, Reptilia. Editura Academiei R.P.R., Bucureşti: 1-352. [in Ro]

5. Fuhn I.E., (1969): Broaște, șerpi, șopârle. Ed. Ştiinţifică, Bucureşti. [in Ro]

6. Gasc J.P., Cabela A., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, Domen D., Groessenbacher K., Haffner P., Lescure J., Martens H., Marinez Rica J.P., Maurin H., Oliveira M.E., Sofianidou T.S., Veith M., Zuiderwijk A., (1997): Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica & Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris.

7. Honigmann H.L., (1917): (note without title). Blatter fur Aquarium und Terrariumkunde no. 28: 237-238. 

8. Iftime Al., (2005): Reptilia. Amphibia. In: “Cartea Roşie a Vertebratelor din România”, Eds: Botnariuc & Tatole. Ed. Acad. Române. [in Ro]

9. Lenk P., Joger U., Wink M., (2001): Phylogenetic relationships among European ratsnakes of the genus Elaphe Fitzinger based on mitochondrial DNA sequence comparisons. Amphibia-Reptilia 22: 329-339.

10. Mertens R., (1921): Die Amphibien und Reptilien der Walachei und Dobrudscha II: Die Reptilien. Senkenbergiana 3: 20-23. Frankfurt am Main.

11. Sos T., (2008): Review of recent taxonomic and nomenclatural changes in European Amphibia and Reptilia related to Romanian herpetofauna. Herpetologica Romanica, 2, 61-91.

12. Ţibu P.L., Strugariu A., (2007): A new record for the blotched snake (Elaphe sauromates) in Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 3 (1): 62-65.

13. Torok Z., (2006): GIS technique used for managing data on potential Natura 2000 sites. Case study: areas inhabited by Elaphe quatorlineata. Sc. Annals of DDI, vol. 12: 201-210. 

14. Utiger U., Helfenberger N., Schätti B., Schmidt C., Ruf M., Ziswiler V., (2002): Molecular systematics and phylogeny of old and new world ratsnakes, Elaphe Auct., and related genera (Reptilia, Squamata, Colubridae). Russian Journal of Herpetology 9: 105-124.

15. ***Legea 13 din 1993 prin care România ratifică Convenţia de la Berna. [in Ro]

16. ***Directiva Europeana 92/43/EEC [in Ro]

17. ***Legea nr. 462/2001 privind regimul ariilor naturale protejate, conservarea habitatelor naturale, a florei şi faunei sălbatice. [in Ro]

18. ***Ordonanţa de Urgenţă a Guvernului nr. 57/2007 privind regimul ariilor naturale protejate, conservarea habitatelor naturale, a florei şi faunei sălbatice, aprobată cu modificări şi completări ulterioare. [in Ro]