Elaphe sauromates (Pallas, 1814)
Coluber quatuorlineatus Lacep. var. sauromates: Kovachev, 1912: 46-47; Elaphe quatuorlineata sauromates: Buresch & Zonkov, 1934: 137-141.
Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endagered EN [A4ac], BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, HD-II, IV.
General distribution. From Southwestern and Danubian Romania and the eastern parts of the Balkan peninsula to Western Kazakhstan, Western Iran and Northern Iraq; in the north up to the middle course of the Don and the region of Volgograd, in the south the area includes Southern Russia, the countries of the Caucasus Region, Turkey.
Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. At the end of the 19th and the first decade of the 20th century, it was common in Northern Bulgaria and the eastern parts of Southern Bulgaria [1, 2, 3]. Many habitats have been reported from these regions, found in the 1920s and 1930s . In the last fifty years, there were only several sure cases of findings to the north of the Balkan range and in the western half of the Upper Thracian lowland. Comparatively preserved are the populations at places in the Eastern Rhodopes, the Tundzha region, Sakar and Strandzha, but there the species is also rare. It has also been found in new habitats in Northern Bulgaria (Nikopol region), Shumen region , the Black Sea coast between the river Batova and the village of Kiten, the Besaparski hills to the south of Pazardzhik, the regions of Asenovgrad, Haskovo, Svilengrad, Sredets. All the habitats in Bulgaria are at altitudes of up to 400 m (unpublished data).
Habitats. Mainly places with thin forests and bushes or with steppe vegetation, where it prefers hollows, ravines, etc. It also enters the edges of marshes while looking for nests of birds.
Biology. Diurnally active. Its basic food in the spring are eggs and the young of birds, and rodents in the summer and in the autumn. It lays 4-14 eggs. In their colouring, the young ones resemble the adults but they have less yellow pigment in the colouring. It reaches a length of 180 cm, rarely 200 cm. It is not poisonous.
Similar species. In their colouring, the young ones resemble the cat snake (Telescopus fallax) but are easily distinguished from it by their round eye pupil.
Negative factors. In Northern Bulgaria and the western parts of Thrace: the creation of large monocultural fields in the second half of the 20th century and, as a result, the elimination of the field boundaries, the small forests, the bushes in the hollows, etc.; a decrease of the areas of deciduous forests in the Eastern Rhodopes, Sakar and Strandzha, forestation with coniferous trees, forest fires; the tourist invasion along the Black Sea coast, building along the coast; death by cars on the roads; illegal catching.
Conservation measures taken. Some of the habitats fall within protected territories (the Srebarna reserve, the natural parks Rusenski Lom, Strandzha, Poda protected locality near Burgas, etc.); a poster was published for the protection of reptiles (1998).
Conservation measures needed. Popularization of the nature conservation status of the species; inclusion of the habitats in protected territories; restriction on felling trees and forestation with coniferous species in the existing habitats; combating forest fires; strict control over the activities of local and foreign human poachers.
References. 1. Kovachev, 1894; 2. Kovachev, 1912; 3. Werner, 1898; 4. Buresch & Zonkov, 1934; 5. Vasilev et al., 2006.
Author: Vladimir Beschkov