Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: African Puff Adder
Scientific name: Bitis arietans
Along with the Saw-scaled Viper, (Echis carinatus) the Puff Adder is responsible for more snakebite deaths in Africa than any other snake. Common and tolerant of human habitation, it often chooses paths heavily traversed by people as a hunting site, and rarely moves until stepped upon. Puff Adders inject large doses of highly toxic venom deeply into their victim – obviously not a species one should consider keeping!
The Puff Adder’s huge range covers Morocco, Algeria and nearly all of Africa south of the Sahara, as well as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen.
Highly adaptable, it is found in nearly all habitats other than true desert and rainforest, including savannahs, overgrown fields, rocky grasslands, open forests, farms and the outskirts of villages and cities.
Appearance / health:
This heavy bodied snake may be colored yellow, yellow-brown, reddish-brown, or gray, and sports large black or brown “V-shaped” markings and spots. Mature Puff Adders reach 1-1.8 meters (3-6 ft) in length.
Zoo specimens have reached age 20+, but are considered prone to stress-related disorders and damp conditions.
Behavior / temperament:
Puff Adders are inactive and appear “sluggish”, yet strike with amazing speed. Their bulk renders handling with snake hooks especially difficult and dangerous.
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.
Puff Adders are ambush predators, taking meerkats, cane rats, and other mammals, frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds and their eggs. Zoo animals are fed rats and mice.
Puff adders have unusually large litters of live young, with an average litter size of 25 and a maximum of 80+. The young are 12-17 cm (5-7 in) long at birth, and are capable of causing human fatalities.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
experienced venomous keepers, impressive oldworld viper
venomous snake, extremely dangerous snake, potent venom, unpredictable behavior
strong hook sticks
Puff Adder - Bitis arietans
This is a large impressive old-world viper species with a potent venom and probably the fast strike out of any snake in the world. The Puff Adder is a truly remarkable snake. They huffs and puffs when they feel threatened or in danger (hence the name Puff Adder) but are astonishingly quick when they want to be. These snakes never fail to take their keepers by surprise making them very unpredictable and not an easy species to keep. Although they do sit nicely on two appropiately sized hooks, due to the way the move and their girth they can be quick difficult to handle and move from their cages during cleaning and maintenance. I do not recommend ever tailing or using your hands to handle this species as they are extremely fast and there is absolutely no need to ever touch the snake as they are easily transferred from tub to tub with 2 strong hook sticks and a little coaxing. Although many species of vipers do very well in private collections, due to the toxicity of their venom (Highly venomous) and their erratic and unpredictable behavior I do not recommend this species for household collections. They do exceeding well in captivity and are easy to feed and keep, but highly venomous. This is the species that I feel sooner or later will bite me. They are just too fast. For very experienced venomous keepers only..
From RobWedderburn Sep 27 2015 2:57PM
Albert, the puff adder
Around the time I kept a black mamba called Satan, I also kept a puff adder that rejoiced in the name of Albert. To this day I cannot quite understand why I kept either snake, because both are extremely venomous, aggressive, and downright dangerous.
Nevertheless, Albert was only a few hours old when I rescued him from one of the farm dogs, not because I cared about the snake so much, but becuse a new-born puff adder is as venomous as a full grown adult snake, and even a baby is fully capable of killing a dog. If I am guilty of anything, caring about animals is my greatest fault, so instead of releasing the little puff adder, I decided to keep it for a while, just in case its encounter with the dog injured it. Of course, I should have known better, because by the time it was evident that the snake was unharmed, I had become interested in it, and before long it was firmly ensconced in an old fish tank with a custom made lid to prevent it escaping into the house.
Of course keeping a puff adder was illegal, and since I knew I would not get a permit I kept it quiet, but the truth will out, and I soon received a visit from the inspectors at the local reptile park. These gentlemen were understandably not impressed, but in view of the many hours of volunteer work at the park, they allowed me to keep the snake until they could accomodate it at the park. However, as it turned out, this did not happen for nearly four years,and then only because I called to remind them of their "offer" to take the by then, extremely dangerous snake off my hands.
Keeping a puff adder is no laughing matter: for one thing, it is rare for this species to eat while it is in captivity, which means that it has to be force-fed, and feeding a puff adder is not for the faint hearted. It involves catching the snake without harming it, and then to force a piece of meat down its gullet with a glass rod. In a non-venomous species this is not a big deal, but even a small puff adder is surprisingly strong, and as I said earlier, a bite from a baby puff adder is as bad as a bite from an adult.
However, Albert sometimes caught the small mice I dropped into his cage, but then again, he would sometimes refuse to feed for weeks at a time, and it was then that he had to be fed. Keeping his water fresh was just as difficult; there was no safe way to remove his water dish safely, because he would do his best to bite the hand that fed him, so in the end I was forced to rig up plumbing system worthy of a cruise liner to keep him in fresh water.
Thinking back on all of this now, it makes me wonder what was wrong with me to even think of keeping such deadly snakes, much less actually doing it. To be perfectly honest, I have always been afraid of snakes, and I still am, so the only logical conclusion I can come to is that there was something wrong with me. I will definitely never keep any kind of snake again, and as far as venomous snakes are concerned, even less so.
It now seems like a miracle I was never bitten by either snake, which makes me think that I was either extremely lucky, or I had more than one guardian angel. Whatever the reason though, I cannot discourage people strongly enough never to keep this kind of venomous snake if they are not expert herpatologists, and even then, I would urge caution. These snakes can never be pets, and based on my ill-advised experience with puff adders and mambas, I can only advise people to err on the side of caution when they are confronted with them. Put simply, stay away from deadly snakes- the adrenain rush is simply not worth the risk!.
From reinier1 Apr 22 2015 10:01AM