Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Common European Viper
Scientific name: Vipera berus
Important Note: Vipers are suitable for display in zoos only, and should never be kept in private collections. The following information is intended to introduce the reader to their incredible diversity, and is not meant to serve as a care guide. Those interested in working with venomous snakes are advised to seek careers as herpetologists or professional zookeepers.
Vipers are venomous snakes, and all are capable of delivering deadly bites. Snake venom is constantly evolving in response to prey animal defenses, and we know little about the toxins produced by many species. Due to these facts, and because individual sensitivities and other factors can greatly affect one’s reaction to a bite, even those species that are sometimes referred to as “mildly venomous” must be considered as capable of causing human fatalities. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.
The basics: The European Adder has one of the largest ranges of any Eurasian snake, and is also found further north – to the southern portion of the Arctic Circle – than any species. The huge range extends from Scandinavia and the UK through northwestern and southern Europe to northern Greece and east to northern Mongolia, Russia, North Korea and northern China. Four subspecies have been described.
European Adders are at home in a variety of habitats, including wooded grasslands, thorn scrub, riverside brush, farms, meadows, forest edges, peat bogs and marshes.
Appearance / health: The European Adder is heavily-built and averages 2-3 feet in length. The body may be various shades of tan or brown to black, and is usually marked with a dark “zig-zag” pattern along the length of the back.
Venomous snake species are not suitable as pets in private collections. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.
Diet: European Adders take a wide range of animals, including rabbits, weasels, rodents, birds and their eggs, lizards, frogs and even locusts and other invertebrates. Venom is used to overcome most prey animals.
Breeding: Males engage in “wrestling matches” to determine mating rights. Female European Adders produce 3-20 live young at 2-3 year intervals. In northern populations, the young are born during hibernation.
Written by Frank Indiviglio