Elaphe quatuorlineata (Lacepede, 1789)
Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [B1, C2a(i)], BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, HD-II, IV.
General distribution. Italy, the whole western coast of the Balkan peninsula, the western half of Greece and many of the Greek islands, Macedonia and the southwestern corner of Bulgaria.
Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. It has been found only in the Petrich-Sandanski valley, the valley of the river Strumeshnitsa and the southern half of the Kresna gorge [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. In the flat parts of the Petrich-Sandanski gorge it is almost destroyed because of the large share of arable areas and has remained mainly in the feet of the surrounding mountains and some rocky hills situated in an island-like manner. In the Kresna gorge it has been found at altitudes up to 600 m . The numbers and the density of the populations are unknown. In 1971-1975 in the region of the village of Gorna Breznitsa (Kresna municipality), among 437 non-selectively gathered snakes this species takes the 7th place in the frequency of finding .
Habitats. Mainly low-stem forests and bushes in rocky and other places with a well-developed microrelief, on slopes lit by the sun.
Biology. In the second half of June and the beginning of July, it lays 5-14 eggs . It mainly feeds on birds and their eggs, less often rodents, sometimes swallowing newly-born hares, small hedge-hogs and newly-hatched tortoises. It reaches a length of 180 cm, rarely 200. It is not poisonous.
Similar species. In Bulgaria none. The young ones are spotted and are hard to distinguish from those of the blotched snake (Elaphe sauromates), but the two species are geographically isolated from the high mountains in Southwestern Bulgaria. After "taking off" the horn layer of its skin several times, at a length of about 60 to about 95 cm, they gradually acquire a striped colouring.
Negative factors. Intensive agriculture in the Petrich-Sandanski valley; killing by local people; illegal gathering by collectors and terrarium keepers; running over on the roads.
Conservation measures taken. Included in the Bulgarian Red Data Book of 1985 in the endangered category. A poster was published for the protection of reptiles in 1998; articles have been published to popularize its protection in editions with a large circulation. Almost all habitats fall within the Natura 2000 network of protected territories.
Conservation measures needed. Popularization of the nature conservation status of the species, especially in the regions where it is found; control over the activities of poachers; disallowing building a motorway in the Kresna gorge; discontinuation of the quarry development of the volcanic hill Kozhuha near Petrich.
References. 1. Buresch & Zonkov, 1934; 2. Beshkov, 1974; 3. Beshkov, 1978; 4. Beshkov, 1981; 5. Beshkov, 1964.
Author: Vladimir Beschkov