Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Scientific name: Vipera ammodytes
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.
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.
Horned Vipers are ambush predators, feeding largely upon small rodents, birds, lizards and other snakes. Zoo animals are fed rats and mice.
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
venom, nocturnal species, ill tempered snake, bite, initial feeding problems
semi dessert areas, sand
Fascinating but Dangerous
I’ve had the good fortune to work with this and related vipers in zoos for decades but, fascinating though they are, I feel strongly that they should never be kept in private collections. Unfortunately, their willingness to breed and generally modest price tags leads some to label them as “ideal starter hot snakes”. Please ignore such advice!
It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite. Viper venom is far more complex than was once believed. Haemotoxins, which damage blood cells, blood vessels and body tissues, predominate in most that have been studied. However, all have neurotoxic components as well, along with the enzyme Hyaluronidase, which speeds venom diffusion. Surely, you can find a more suitable, and equally interesting, species to keep!
This, or a related species, can easily be viewed in most any major zoo – please limit your viper “interactions” to zoo visits, or prepare for a career as a professional zookeeper or herpetologist if you have a serious interest in venomous snakes..
From findiviglio Jan 7 2016 4:54PM