Cat snake


Cat Snake
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The cat snake (scient. Telescopus fallax) is the only snake in Crete with venom. However, the poison is too weak to hurt humans and is excreted in the back of its mouth, making it actually harmless. The snake feeds on small lizards and uses the poison for relaxing their bodies.

The cat snake, in contrary to the other snakes of Crete, hunts during night, when the lizards are sleepy and slow. For this reason, meeting a cat snake is rare. Its eyes look like cat eyes, hence its name. Females lay 5-9 eggs which usually hatch in mid-August. They usually "whistle" if caught and pretend attacking, but they bite very rarely.

The cat snakes in Kefalonia island (in Ionian Sea) are called holy snakes, as they are linked to a religious tradition dating back in ancient times. The wonder takes place every year at the church of Virgin Mary in Lagouvardo, known also as Madonna of Snakes. According to the tradition, when the nuns were once threatened by the Turks, they prayed to Virgin Mary. Then, snakes appeared miraculously everywhere and surrounded the monastery, scaring Turks off. Since then, every year between 6-16 August, small snakes with a small cross on their head appear in the rocks of the belfry. The snakes are believed to bring good fortune and non-appearing is perceived as a bad omen. It is characteristic that the snakes did not appear in 1940 and 1953, the years of the Second World War (in Greece) and the catastrophic earthquake in Kefalonia, respectivelly.


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