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Reptiles And Amphibians

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Common European viper or common European adder

Vipera berus

This relatively small, thick-bodied venomous snake grows up to 80 centimetres long. Females are typically larger than males. The snake's head is a rounded-triangular shape and distinctly separate from its neck. It has vertical pupils, and its two large, moveable venomous teeth are located at the front edge of its jaw. Its colour varies from grey to red-brown with a characteristic zigzag stripe along its spine and an X pattern on its head. Some adders may be entirely black (melanistic).

The common viper's habitat stretches from Northern and Central Europe to the Far East. In Ukraine, this species can be found in the forest and forest-steppe zones.

Preferring mixed forests with large glades, the common viper tends to settle near swamps, lakes and streams. In March and April, it leaves its brumation location and begins mating after two or three weeks. Gestation lasts for three months, after which the female gives birth to between eight and 12 young, which measure about 16 centimetres long. They become sexually mature at between three and five years of age. The common viper lives for 10 to 15 years. It feeds on small rodents, shrews, frogs and birds, hunting mostly at night. On encountering a human being it will typically try to escape and hide. When threatened it becomes more actively defensive, hissing and performing threatening strikes. A bite from this snake will leave one or two small punctures in the skin and will be very painful, with the bitten area becoming swollen after 10 to 15 minutes. If bitten, a person will suffer from headache, nausea, impaired vision and weakness. One in every 80 to 100 bites proves fatal, typically in people with allergies.

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