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Horned Viper

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Mircea Nita

Is the Horned Viper right for you?

Species group:

Scientific name: Vipera ammodytes

The basics:
A unique appearance renders this Eurasia’s Horned Viper instantly recognizable…a good thing, as it is armed with long fangs and highly-toxic venom, and often lives in close association with people.

The Horned Viper is found in southern and central Europe and parts of the Middle East, from southern Austria and Italy to Greece, Turkey and Syria. It favors dry, rocky woodlands, thorn scrub and overgrown fields, but also colonizes farms and village gardens.

Appearance / health:
The background color ranges from various shades of gray to yellowish-brown, with some females being copper-colored or red. Dark markings, often in a zig-zag pattern, decorate the back, and the upturned scales above the snout are distinctive. The Horned Viper reaches 95 cm (37.6 in) in length.

Zoo specimens have proven quite resilient, and have reached age 20+.

Behavior / temperament:
Horned Vipers are rather inactive and seem to accept zoo confinement well, but they strike with amazing speed and are never taken lightly by professional zookeepers.

Housing:
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:
Horned Vipers are ambush predators, feeding largely upon small rodents, birds, lizards and other snakes. Zoo animals are fed rats and mice.

Breeding:
The young, 1-22 in number, are born alive in the summer at a size of 14-24 cm (5.5-9.4 in).

Written by Frank Indiviglio