The 11 VENOMOUS SNAKES Found in Europe! (ID Guide)
Believe it or not, you can find 11 types of venomous snakes in Europe.
But please don’t live in fear, thinking that you are going to be bitten. In general, snakes try to avoid any contact or interaction with people. As long as you leave them alone, you shouldn’t have any trouble!
Did you know that snakes are venomous, NOT poisonous? If you eat something that makes you sick, then it’s considered “poisonous.” If an animal, like a snake, delivers its toxins when it bites, it’s considered “venomous.”
*If you come across any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you could get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*
Here are the 11 kinds of venomous snakes in Europe!
- Vipera berus
Also known as the Common European Adder / Viper.
- Adults average around 55 cm (22 in) long.
- Color varies and can be brown, red, or light grey with a zigzag stripe on the back. But some individuals are entirely black.
- The head is fairly large and distinct and has a distinctive dark V or X on the back.
Adders are not considered an incredibly dangerous venomous snake in Europe.
Luckily, they are not very aggressive and rarely bite unless stepped on, picked up, or provoked. But if you are bitten, their venom is quite painful and causes swelling, internal hemorrhaging, and necrosis. While the venom can be lethal, deaths are incredibly rare. For example, about 200 people are bitten each year in Britain, however, there has only been 1 fatality since 1876!
Adder Range Map
Adders are found in many habitats, such as forest clearings, marshlands, heathlands, pastures with hedgerows, and even alpine meadows in the Alps. They mostly eat small mammals, but lizards, birds, and frogs are taken when available.
Because of their large distribution and a broad range of habitats, the population of Adders is currently not threatened. But their numbers are decreasing slightly due to habitat loss for agriculture and collecting them for the pet trade and venom extraction.
#2. Asp Viper
- Vipera aspis
Other common names include European Asp, European Viper, Black Asp, Central Italian Asp, and Southern Italian Asp.
- Fairly small, as adults only average a length of 60-65 cm (23.5 – 25.5 inches).
- The head is broad, triangular, and distinct from the neck. The tip of the snout is slightly upturned.
- Colors range from light grey to brown to various shades of orange. Some individuals are melanistic and completely black!
- They have darker marks on their back, which form an irregular zig-zag pattern.
Watch out for this VENOMOUS snake in Europe!
Bites from the Asp Viper are both painful and dangerous, with about 4% of untreated bites being fatal. If bitten, go to the hospital immediately, as the venom has both coagulant and anticoagulant effects. Severe hemorrhagic necrosis occurs after a few hours, along with impaired vision due to the degradation of blood vessels and blood around the eyes.
Asp Viper Range Map
Luckily, these venomous snakes are not aggressive, and bites are rare. Most strikes and subsequent poisonings happen when they feel threatened, such as when someone foolishly tries to handle one, or they are accidentally stepped on.
According to the IUCN Red List, populations of the Asp Viper are stable, and it’s not currently threatened. These snakes live in a broad range of habitats and have a wide distribution. In general, look for them in areas with plenty of sun, vegetation for cover, and dry soil.
While we will never know for sure, many people think that the Asp Viper was the type of venomous snake that bit and killed the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra!
#3. Western Montpellier Snake
- Malpolon monspessulanus
- Quite large and can grow to be up to 2 meters long (6.5 feet) and weigh 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)!
- Large prominent eyes with a distinct “eyebrow,” which is a ridge above their eye.
- The body is a uniform yellowish, grey, or olive, often followed by a bluish or dark grey “saddle” on the back.
These venomous snakes are not considered a threat in Europe.
First, the venom is not very dangerous to humans as it has low toxicity when compared to other species. Second, when they feel threatened, Western Montpellier Snakes typically slither away quickly. And if they can’t get away, they first try to scare you away by hissing repeatedly, then raising the front of their body and expanding their neck, just like a cobra!
Western Montpellier Snake Range Map
Lastly, since the fangs are positioned toward the back of the mouth, it’s unlikely any venom would be released during a bite. In fact, there has never been a death from these venomous snakes, with only a few cases of venom being injected into a person ever being reported.
Western Montpellier Snakes adapt to the presence of humans quite well and are common, despite their large size. Look for them in a wide range of habitats. Their main prey includes lizards, so they are often found in dry areas where lizards like to inhabit.
#4. Nose-horned Viper
- Vipera ammodytes
Also commonly called Horned Viper, Long-nosed Viper, and Sand Viper.
- The average total length is 50–70 cm (19.5–27.5 in), but some individuals grow larger.
- Colors vary (silver-grey, beige, red, brown, dark grey), but there is almost always a dark zigzag on the back.
- Often a row of round dots on the sides.
This species is the most dangerous venomous snake in Europe!
First, their venom is highly toxic, with both neurotoxic and cytotoxic components that cause swelling and severe pain. In addition, they have LONG fangs (~13mm / .5 in) to deliver their potentially lethal venom. Luckily, antivenom is available as long as you go directly to a hospital!
Nose-horned Viper Range Map
As the name suggests, Nose-horned Vipers have a distinctive single “horn” on the snout. This feature makes them easy to identify. Look for them near rocks and stones, including stone walls, that provide some cover from vegetation. They are not easily agitated and typically only bite when handled or accidentally stepped on.
Interestingly, unlike most snakes, males and females look slightly different. First, females usually have more brownish or reddish shades, with males being more greyish. Second, females normally lack the dark blotch or V marking on the back of the head that the males have.
#5. Dahl’s Whip Snake
- Platyceps najadum
- A VERY slender snake that grows up to 120 cm / 47 in long.
- The head and first quarter of the body are usually grey with round, black circles on the sides that decrease in size.
- The rest of the body is a uniform beige-brown.
So these snakes are technically NOT a venomous species in Europe.
That’s because Dahl’s Whip Snakes don’t have fangs! But I’m including them in this list because their bite doesn’t come without consequences.
If you are bitten, you may experience poisoning symptoms if the skin is penetrated and their saliva has time to work its way into the wound! Humans typically experience swelling near the bite, but some individuals also have lymph node swelling. But in general, these snakes are not considered dangerous, and bites are considered medically insignificant.
Dahl’s Whip Snake can be found in Europe in dry, stony habitats with low vegetation. They are also seen in cultivated areas, such as olive groves and vineyards, especially if they have stone walls. These snakes are extremely fast and actively hunt lizards, both on the ground and on walls. The best time to find one is during the day, except when it gets very hot, then they become more active in the morning or evening.
#6. Cat Snake
- Telescopus fallax
- Fairly slender and usually less than 100 cm (39 in) in length. The eyes have vertical pupils.
- Their body is beige or gray with large dark bars or blotches on their back and smaller ones on the sides.
- A dark collar often extends to the middle of the head.
Cat Snakes are venomous, but there have been no cases in Europe of one injecting venom into a human. That’s because they have rear fangs, which make it very hard to envenomate a person. Also, they are calm snakes and normally don’t bite or hiss even when handled!
And in the unlikely event that someone was bitten, the venom has low toxicity and is unlikely to harm anything other than small prey.
Look for Cat Snakes in warm rocky areas, such as stone steppes and rocky slopes. But you may also find them in open deciduous forests, backyard gardens, orchards, or other habitats near humans, especially if a stone wall is available to hide inside.
Cat Snake Range Map
It’s fairly hard to see a Cat Snake because they rarely show themselves during the day. Instead, they are almost completely nocturnal, which is when they hunt for lizards and geckos while they sleep. Your best chance of finding one is turning over stones during spring or autumn.
#7. Seoane’s Viper
- Vipera seoanei
Also known as the Baskian Viper, Iberian Cross Adder, and Portuguese Viper.
- Adults typically measure between 50 – 60 cm (19.5 – 23.5 in) in length.
- They are highly variable in appearance. Individuals are usually beige, grey, or reddish.
- Their backs are typically light with a contrasting darker zigzag or straight stripe.
- Lacks the upturned snout of other similar venomous viper species.
These snakes are venomous, but the potency of the venom varies across Spain. If bitten, you should seek medical attention immediately. Generally speaking, their venom is not as dangerous as the Asp Viper.
Seoane’s Vipers Range Map
Seoane’s Vipers like moist, warm habitats and are found in forest clearings and the edges of meadows that have lots of vegetation. Stone walls are also great places for them to hide inside.
These venomous snakes mainly feed on small mammals that they ambush. But if needed, they will pursue their prey into their burrow (I would not want to be that mouse!).
#8. Meadow Viper
- Vipera ursinii
- Adults average 40–50 cm (15.75–19.69 inches) in total length.
- They are gray, tan, or yellowish with a dark wavy dorsal stripe, which is edged with black.
- The snout is NOT upturned, like the Asp Viper.
These venomous snakes are considered very RARE in Europe!
In fact, they are in danger of going extinct, with only a few scattered populations remaining. Their main threats include habitat destruction due to agriculture and climate change in mountainous areas, which is where many of them are found.
Meadow Viper Range Map
Meadow Vipers are among the smallest venomous snakes on the continent. But despite their size, they are incredibly feisty when they feel threatened. So you can expect an upset snake to hiss and strike in defense.
Luckily, their venom is probably the least dangerous of the European vipers, although the bite can still be painful and cause internal hemorrhaging.
#9. Lataste’s Viper
- Vipera latastei
- Normally grows to around 60 cm (23.5 in) long.
- Light to dark brown, beige or light silver to dark grey. A darker zigzagging stripe on their back.
- Unmistakable in its range due to the distinct upturned horn on the snout.
Lataste’s Vipers are venomous, and their venom is cytotoxic and quite potent. But luckily, it has enzymes that are more effective on mice than on humans. As a result, bites are rarely fatal to people, but you can still expect swelling, internal hemorrhaging, and sometimes necrosis. Medical treatment should always be sought if bitten.
Lataste’s Viper Range Map
These venomous snakes are found in southwest Europe in various habitats and at different elevations. For example, they live in coastal dunes with Umbrella Pines, open deciduous forests, rocky areas with stone walls, and also on sunny rocky slopes in the Sierra Nevada.
The best place to find one is typically under a rock, regardless of whether it is day or night. Some scientists think that the yellow tip of their tail is used to lure prey!
#10. Iberian False Smooth Snake
- Macroprotodon brevis
Also called the Western False Smooth Snake.
- The average size of adults is 65 cm (25.5 in).
- Fairly slender snake. They are pale grey or brown with a row of dark blotches on their back.
- Look for a dark grey or brown color over the neck and a dark streak under the eye.
Believe it or not, the Iberian False Smooth Snake is venomous! They are considered opisthoglyphous, which means that the rear teeth in the upper jaw have been modified as fangs. Since their fangs are at the very back of their mouth, it’s almost impossible for them to inject venom into a human. In addition, their mouth is too small, and the toxicity of the venom is too low to cause any damage to a person.
Iberian False Smooth Snakes can be hard to locate in southwest Europe because they are completely nocturnal and crepuscular. They come out at night to hunt on the ground for geckos, lizards, and worm lizards. Interestingly, worm lizards make up about half their diet.
Iberian False Smooth Snake Range Map
These snakes do best in warm weather and are typically found in sandy soil around loose rocks or large boulders. But they are also known to frequent dunes, orchards, and pine forests.
#11. Ottoman Viper
- Montivipera xanthina
- Adults grow up to 100 cm (39.5 in) in length.
- A large, robust body with a blunt snout. Beige, brown, whitish, or grey with a large wavy dark stripe on their back.
- Often two dark dots on the head and two dark streaks on the neck resemble a V-shape.
This species is the LARGEST venomous viper in Europe!
You don’t want to get bitten by an Ottoman Viper, as their venom is highly toxic and it’s almost always injected into their victim. If the bite is left untreated, it’s potentially fatal for a human. In general, these snakes are considered to have a calm disposition and are a bit sluggish. But if they feel cornered, they won’t hesitate to start hissing and strike their attacker.
You can find these venomous snakes in areas with dry, rocky surfaces that also have lots of dense vegetation. Meadows with stone walls or bushy hillsides near streams offer excellent habitats for them.
Do you need more help identifying a venomous snake you saw in Europe?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
Make sure to check out these guides to other animals found in Europe!
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Europe?
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