By Anders Nielsen, Ph.d.

Night Adder

These snakes are not in the same family as the other Vipers. In fact, with their round eyes and the fact that they are not ovivoparous, one could easily think that Night Adders were completely harmless non-venomous snakes. They are not! The West African Night Adder is one of the most common snakes to get a bite from when you live in Africa. Victim’s experience a lot of unpleasant symptomns, but the snake is definitely not lethal. They are quite aggressive and are prone to striking when they have the chance.

Like its close relative, the Carpet Viper (responsible of countless fatalities), the Horned Vipern is an African ambusher. It inhabits deserts and when it hunts it hides in the sand with only its two horns and eyes visible (horns just above the eye) waiting for a small rodent or even bird gets within striking distance. It can grow to almost 1 meter. It is not nearly as deadly as the Carpet Viper, and only a few fatalities from Horned Viper bites have been recorded.

In this video it shows how the Horned Viper digs itself into the sand and waits for a rodent to come nearby. When it is close enough it strikes. Like many other snake it lets the prey escape for a while only to hunt it down after a minute or so when it has succumbed to the venom. Notice that it moves just like a Sidewinder Rattlesnake.

This is a short video and a bunch of images of the Carpet Viper.

Moorish Viper

Moorish Vipers are the largest viper in Northern Africa. It has a dark zig-zag pattern, and it is most active at twilight. Days are spent hiding until the suns goes down where it transforms into its ambusher mode. It likes rocky mountains and steppes. It is oviparous

These snakes are also known under the less-flattening name: “side-stabbing snakes”. They are confined to Africa and Israel. In Congo and Cameroun there are many species, but in most African countries only a few species are found. Burrowing Asps has the longest fangs relative to head size than any snake, and they are capable of biting without even opening their mouth, as their fangs protrude from the side of their mouths. They stab backwards and drags their prey into their burrows. One should be extremely careful when handling these snakes. They frequent cause envenomations in humans, but one species only is capable of killing a person.

A “Mole Viper” found in Israel. The most common Burrowing Asps are the Stiletto snake. It is mostly active during night and no antivenom against its bite is available.

A Stiletto snake eating a living mouse. Usually they don’t feed living mice to the snakes.

Egyptian Cobra

Shieldnose snake

Southern African Gartersnake

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et al. “Snakebite mortality in Costa Rica”, Toxicon, Vol. 35 pp. 1639-43 (1997)

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