Cat Snake

Telescopus fallax (Fleischmann, 1831)

Tarbophys fallax Fleischmann [sic!]: Buresch & Zonkov, 1934: 108; Beshkov, 1959: 89; Torbophis fallax Fleisch. [sic!]: Buresch & Zonkov, 1934: 161; Beshkov, 1961: 376; Tarbophis fallax Fleischer. [sic!]: Cyren, 1941: 117.

Order Squamata

Family Colubridae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU [B2], BDA-III; International: BeC-II, HD-IV.

General distribution. In Europe: the lands along the western coast of the Balkan peninsula, Malta, continental and island Greece, Macedonia, the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, the Eastern Rhodopes, the southwestern coast of the Caspian Sea. In Asia: Turkey, the Caucasus countries, Northwestern Iran, Northern Iraq, Turkmenistan, the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, Jordan, the Sinai peninsula.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Only in the Petrich-Sandanski valley, the southern half of the Kresna gorge [1, 2, 3] and in the Eastern Rhodopes near Madzharovo [4]. In 1971-1975, of the 437 snakes of 11 species collected around the village of Gorna Breznitsa and the Kresna gorge, the cat snake took the last place in the number of individuals found (2 individuals = 0,45 %) [5]. Until 1958 the species had not been registered within the territory of Bulgaria [1]. In the 1980s a total of about 15 individuals were found. In the last 15 years, several individuals were found every year.

Habitats. Mainly dry rocky and stony places with thin herbaceous and bushy vegetation; it is also found in strongly sandy, flat places. The separate populations are entirely isolated between each other.

Biology. It lays 6 9 eggs, probably in the first half of July. The young ones do not differ in their colouring from the adults. It excellently climbs rocks, walls of buildings, etc. Deep in the mouth it has poisonous teeth with which it kills its prey (mainly lizards, sometimes small rodents, the young of swallows in the nests, etc.). For people it is harmless.

Similar species. It resembles young four-lined snakes and blotched snakes, mainly with its spotting. It is distinguished by its vertical pupil and the golden-gray iris of the eye.

Negative factors. Unstudied. Many individuals die on the roads run over by cars; there are cases of illegal gathering by local and foreign collectors.

Conservation measures taken. Included in the Bulgarian Red Data Book, 1985, in the category rare. The habitats near the volcanic Kozhuha hill near Petrich and the Tisata reserve in the southern part of the Kresna gorge are in protected territories; it has been portrayed on a poster for the protection of reptiles (1998). Almost all habitats fall within the Natura 2000 network protected territories.

Conservation measures needed. Popularizing the nature conservation status of the species among the population; discontinuation of the quarry exploitation of Kozhuha; ban on the building of a motorway in the Kresna gorge; control over the activities of poachers.

References. 1. Beshkov, 1959; 2. Beskov & Beron, 1964; 3. Beshkov, 1985; 4. Petrov et al., 2002; 5. Beshkov, 1978.

Author: Vladimir Beschkov

Cat Snake (distribution map)

Cat Snake (drawing)