Snakes in France: A Practical guide for hikers and outdoors enthusiasts
France boasts a variety of habitats, ranging from the sun-kissed beaches of the Mediterranean to the rugged peaks of the Alps. This rich ecological diversity also includes several species of snakes, some of which may be encountered by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in many regions of France. While most snakes are not dangerous, it is crucial to be aware of potential risks and take appropriate precautions.
Common snakes in France
The most common snakes found in France include:
- Smooth Snake (Coronelle): A small, slender snake with smooth scales and a black head. It is non-venomous and feeds primarily on lizards and amphibians.
- Grass Snake (Couleuvre): A medium-sized snake with dark crossbars or blotches on its back. It is non-venomous and feeds on a variety of small animals, including rodents, lizards, and frogs.
- Viperine Snake (Vipere): A small, slender snake with distinctive black and yellow markings. It is venomous, but its bites are rarely fatal to humans.
- Aesculapian Snake (couleuvre d’Esculape): A large and long (110 to 160 cm), non-venomous snake with dark bands on its back. It feeds primarily on snakes, frogs, and rodents and can look scary due to its size.
Encounters with snakes & bites
If you encounter a snake in France, remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Back away slowly and give the snake plenty of space. Do not attempt to capture or harm the snake.
If you are bitten by a snake, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. Do not attempt to suck out the venom or apply a tourniquet. Remove any constricting clothing or jewellery from the bitten area.
First Aid Kit for snake-inhabited areas
A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for any outdoor activity, but it is especially true when hiking in snake-infested areas. A basic first-aid kit should include:
- Sterile bandages
- Antiseptic wipes
- Pain relievers
- Insect repellent
Extra tips for avoiding snake bites
- Wear long pants and boots when hiking in snake-infested areas.
- Avoid reaching into piles of leaves or rocks where snakes may be hiding.
- Look carefully where you step and avoid putting your hands or feet in areas where you cannot see.
- Be noisy, purposely walk with “heavy” footing and make use of your walking stick
- As a precaution, the group leader should carry a medical kit, and have identified the nearest pharmacy and emergency numbers
Are there scorpions in France too?
Scorpions are relatively rare in France, but they can be found in some areas, particularly in the southern regions near the Mediterranean coast. Scorpions are venomous, but their stings are rarely fatal to humans, as painful as they are. If you are stung by a scorpion, seek medical attention immediately; most local chemists are trained and should be able to assist.
By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of encountering snakes and being bitten. However, remember snakes are an intricate part of the ecosystem and should be treated with respect. After all, it is you disturbing them, not the other way around.