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'New' UK snake species identified

It's been here all along, but scientists have this week revealed that we have a second species of grass snake in the UK.

The newly identified Barred Grass Snake (Natrix helvetica) has the familiar collar marking around the neck but in black rather than yellow, and the overall colouring of the snake's body is more grey-brown with distinctive black stripe marks.

The Common Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) has a yellow collar with a greener body, and stripe marks that are barely visible.

It has to be said that the two snakes do look very different, but such variations (phenotypes) in a single species are common in a range of animals - just think of Labradors which can have golden, chocolate or black coats.

Grass snakes (both varieties) are harmless so there's no need to worry if you do come across one - it will probably wriggle away and out of sight as quickly as it can! But if you do get the opportunity to have a good look, stay calm, quiet and most importantly, leave them to go about their business. All snakes, lizards and slow worms are protected species and it is against the law to harm them.

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