Dice Snake

Natrix tessellata


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Not evaluated Data deficient Least concern NEAR THREATENED Vulnerable Endangered Critically endangered Extinct in the wild Extinct
Assessment info
Habitat and Ecology
Use and Trade
Conservation Actions


Scientific name

Natrix tessellata


(Laurenti, 1768)


Coluber gabinus Metaxa, 1823; Coluber hydrus Pallas, 1771; Coluber penttatus Menetries, 1832; Coluber ponticus Guldenstadt, 1811; Coronella tessellata Laurenti, 1768; Tropidonotus elaphoides Brandt, 1838; Tropidonotus tessellatus (Laurenti, 1768)

Assessment info

IUCN Red List Category and Criteria

NT, B2b(ii,iii)

Date assessed

November 2019


Sterijovski, B.

Arsovski, D.


Tomović, L.




Hofman, M.P.G.


Despite being widely distributed (extent of occurrence [EOO] = 22.632km2), the Dice Snake’s  diet of almost exclusively fish (and sometimes amphibians, Weiperth et al. 2014) has limited its area of occupancy (AOO; 452km2) to the vicinity of freshwater ecosystems. Its prey can exhibit general high fluctuations in population size due to quick responses to threats (i.e. overfishing and hypertrophication induced anoxia), inferring a proneness to extreme fluctuations in AOO and number of locations of the Dice Snake, as well as reductions in AOO and EOO. The vulnerability of freshwater ecosystems to threats such as mini hydroelectric power plants and pollution (Agasyan et al. 2009) reinforce these notions and suggest the Endangered category. Nevertheless, where present, the Dice Snake seems common, and in the lack of nationally conducted population studies the inference of fluctuations in AOO and number of locations might not hold true. Moreover, its AOO is well on the edge of the EN category and it is very likely that it is an underestimation considering the species is distributed throughout the whole country. Finally, having all this in mind and the fact that the species can be found in all neighboring countries from where propagules can likely reach North Macedonia via shared watersheds, nationally the Dice Snake Red List category was downlisted by two steps to the Near Threatened category. Globally and in Europe, this species has been assessed as Least Concern.


Current population trend



In North Macedonia the population size is not accurately determined. Where present, seemingly quite common. For example, the island population of Golem Grad holds ~500 individuals per hectare (Ajtić et al., 2013), which is likely the consequence of an extremely abundant food source and a locality that is under strict protection. However, threats to its freshwater habitats have likely caused population decreases.

Habitat and Ecology


Terrestrial, Freshwater (=Inland waters)

Habitat and Ecology

Highly aquatic, nearly always found near or in bodies of water. Tends to occupy larger water bodies when it coexists with Natrix natrix (Speybroeck et al. 2016). Dice snakes prey predominantly on fish (for North Macedonia see Ajtić et al. 2013; Speybroeck et al., 2016; Weiperth et al. 2014) and lay a clutch of between five and 37 eggs (Agasyan et al. 2009). In North Macedonia, detailed life-history data only comes from the Golem Grad Island population (Ajtić et al, 2013), which might not apply to the rest of the country. Snakes are active for six to seven months of the year (April-October). Adults make up most of the population (88%) and sexual-size dimorphism (larger females) is evident. Mating occurs from April until mid-May and in July females lay less eggs. Hatching was observed in end of August and beginning of September.

Use and trade

Use and trade

Individuals are sometimes spotted as captive-bred by hobbyists and distributed within the hobbyist community. This species was spotted on one occasion in pet store in Skopje (2010), where it was for sale as adder (Vipera berus).



Due to its fish diet dice snakes often fall victims to fishing nets where they easily get tangled and drown (Sterijovski et al. 2011). The species is threatened by loss or modification of wetland habitats in parts of its range, for example through river channelization and lake-shore development (Agasyan et al. 2009). As is the case with all snake species in North Macedonia, it is often persecuted by humans, but not as intensely as most whip snakes and vipers. The biggest threat to this species is likely the spoiling of their hunting grounds with the degradation of bodies of water from hypertrophication (from the intense pollution of streams, lakes and rivers, nationally, in the virtual absence of functioning water treatment facilities) that can cause anoxia followed by mass death incidents of fish, as well as from the construction of mini hydro power plants. Additionally, their fish food source is continuously being depleted via overfishing (personal observations and fishermen testimonies around Prespa Lake).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions

It is listed on Annex II of the Bern Convention and on Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive. Nationally, it is on the list of protected wild species.

The national action for the “prevention of loss, degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats of national and international importance” from the “NATIONAL Strategy for biodiversity of Republic of Macedonia” (Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, 2018)  prioritizes the following actions:

o   10.4 Protection and restoration of swamp habitats/wetlands and riparian habitats

o   10.4.1 Identification of the most affected lowland swamps/wetlands and preparation of action plans for their conservation

o   10.4.2 Identification of the most affected high-altitude swamps/wetlands and preparation of action plans for their conservation

o   10.4.3 Development of a plan and implementation of activities for the prevention of swamp and wetland degradation due to intensification of agriculture, irrigation, fish stocking and other activities of the economic sectors

o   10.4.4 Implementation of pilot measures for the restoration of wetlands



Sillero, N., Campos, J., Bonardi, A., Corti, C., Creemers, R., Crochet, P.-A., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Denoël, M., Ficetola, G.F., Gonçalves, J., Kuzmin, S., Lymberakis, P., de Pous, P., Rodríguez, A., Sindaco, R., Speybroeck, J., Toxopeus, B., Vieites, D.R., Vences, M. 2014. Updated distribution and biogeography of amphibians and reptiles of Europe. .p 1-31.

Ajtić, R., Tomović, L., Sterijovski, B., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Djordjević, S., Djurakić, M., Golubović, A., Simović, A., Arsovski, D., Andjelković, M., Krstić, M., Šukalo, G., Gvozdenović, S., Aïdam, A., Michel, C.L., Ballouard, J.M., Bonnet, X. 2013. Unexpected life history traits in a very dense population of dice snakes. .p 350- 358.

Micevski, B. 2015. Report of Biodiversity conditions of amphibians and reptiles of Ograzden Mt. 2014-2015. Skopje . .p/.

Uzunova, D., Kitanova, D., Spirovska, M., Hristovski, S. 2015. Integral Report for the Project implementation. Final report of the project “Ecological data gap analysis and ecological sensitivity map development for the Bregalnica river watershed” . Skopje . .p/.

Pharmachem .2018. The Study on Biological Diversity in the Area of Sasa Mine – Makedonska Kamenica. Pharmachem Skopje Skopje . .p/.

Sterijovski, B., Tomović, L., Ajtić, R. 2014. Contribution to the knowledge of the Reptile fauna and diversity in FYR of Macedonia. .p 83–92.

Uhrin et al. 2016. Distribution updates to amphibian and reptile fauna for the Republic of Macedonia. .p 201-220.

Ministry of environment and physical planning. 2018. National biodiversity strategy and action plan : for the period 2018 – 2023. Ministry of environment and physical planning. Skopje. .p 183.

Speybroeck, J. Beuckema, W., Bok, B., Voort, J.V.D. 2016. Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc London . .p/.

Sterijovski, B., Ajtić, R., Tomović, Lj., Djordjević, S., Djurakić, M., Golubović, A., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Ballouard, J.-M., Desmonts, D., Groumpf, F., Bonnet, X. 2011. Natrix tessellata on Golem Grad, FYR of Macedonia: a Natural Fortress Shelters a Prosperous Snake Population. .p 298-301.

Agasyan, A., Avci, A., Tuniyev, B., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Lymberakis, P., Andrén, C., Cogalniceanu, D., Wilkinson, J., Ananjeva, N., Üzüm, N., Orlov, N., Podloucky, R., Tuniyev, S., Kaya, U., Ajtić, R., Vogrin, M., Corti, C., Pérez Mellado, V., Sá-Sousa, P., Cheylan, M., Pleguezuelos, J., Baha El Din, S., Konrad Nettmann, H., De Haan, C.C., Sterijovski, B., Schmidt, B., Meyer S. 2009. Natrix tessellata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009 . .p/.

Weiperth, A., Potyó, I., Puky, M. 2014. Diet Composition of the Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata Laurenti, 1768) (Reptilia: Colubridae) in the Danube River Catchment Area. .p 51-56.

Gasc, J-P., Cabela, A., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Dolmen, D., Grossenbacher, K., Haffner, P., Lescure, J., Martens, H., Martinez-Rica, J.P., Maurin, H., Oliveira, M.L., Sofianidou, T.S., Veith, M., Zuiderwijk, A. 1997 Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe Societas Europaea Herpetologica & Museum Nationall d’ Histoire Naturelle (IEGB/SPN). Paris. .p 496.