Gazetteer of Montpeliers and Montpelliers in The Mediterranean


Cyprus is one of the homes of the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus insignitus). It is one of three venomous snakes found on the island.

How to recognise a Montpellier Snake

A large formidable, often uniform snake with rather stiff, slender body and narrow characteristically shaped head. The combination of large eyes and strong "brows" gives this snake a very penetrating expression. Pattern very variable; ground colour grey, reddish-brown, olive, greenish or blackish. Many adults are more or less uniform, but may have scattered light or dark spots, or both. It can grow up to 200 cm, including tail.

It is a vivid terrestrial snake which usually can be found in warm, dry habitats, nearly always with some plant cover in which it often hides. When threatened hisses loudly and for long periods; may also flatten body and spread neck. Provoked animals often try to bite. It feeds on lizards, other snakes, small mammals and occasionally on birds.

Prey animals are killed by action of venom. Fangs are at the back of the upper jaw and because of this they are only liable to be used effectively on human beings if the snake is actually picked up. A severe bite from a free snake is unlikely. In man, prolonged bites to the hand produce numbing and stiffness in the arm, as well as swelling and even fever. This usually passes in a few hours.

The snake is also one of 7 species featured in a 2001 set of stamps issued by Gibraltar.