The smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), also called “Miedzianka” because of his brownish colour, is the smallest snake that can be found in Poland. Unfortunately, Poles often mix this species up with common European vipers which is extremely widespread and venomous. Such mistakes lead to a dangerous situation regarding the population of the smooth snakes in our country. Despite 20 years of protection,”Miedzianka” is still one of the rarest reptiles in Poland, and the condition of its population is critical.
The smooth snake is an extremely thermophilic species, it occurs in well-sunny open and semi-open areas, such as overgrown dunes, moors, sandy and xerothermic grasslands, or forest edges and clearings. These snakes also inhabit heaps of stones, branches, or piles of cut trunks, which is for them an excellent hiding place against predators and unfavorable weather conditions. A characteristic feature of this species is its frequent occurrence in a synanthropic environment, i.e. transformed by man or related to his presence and activity. However, spotted in an open area where they cannot hide quickly, these snakes most often curl up and try to scare the danger away by simulating an attack.
The smooth snake is a popular species in northern and central Europe. Poles named it “Miedzianka” because of its appearance but there is also another name strongly connected with its behaviour. The name “Gniewosz” describes the aggressive attitude of these snakes.
It should also be noted that it is a very rare animal in our country, included in the Polish Red Data Book of Animals, and is considered an endangered species. In 2001, the smooth snake was included in the first edition of the list. The country has implemented measures to protect it better: apart from the prohibition of killing and trapping the snakes, it was ordered to establish protection zones, breeding sites, and regular places of occurrence.
However, the scientists claim that almost nothing has changed in 20 years and “Gniewosz” is still one of the rarest reptiles in Poland, and its population is endangered. The project of analyzing the parameters of the smooth snake habitats in Poland is ongoing. The project is based on citizen science to search for accurate places in our country where snakes can be spotted and accordingly protected against dangerous factors. “In 2022, other records have been released. Sometimes the data obtained in this way is used to directly protect a site; we make it available to authorized entities for nature protection purposes, for example during the emerging investments processes.”, Chairman of Society Herpetologists (NATRIX) and the project’s coordinator, Aleksandra Kolanek says.