The 8 VENOMOUS SNAKES Found in Greece! (ID Guide)
Believe it or not, you can find 8 types of venomous snakes in Greece.
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 8 kinds of venomous snakes in Greece!
- 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 Greece.
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. 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 Greece!
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.
#3. 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 Greece.
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 Greece 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.
#4. 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 Greece 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.
#5. 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 Greece!
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.
#6. 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 Greece!
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.
#7. Eastern Montpellier Snake
- Malpolon insignitus
- 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 with dark stripes or rows of white dashes.
These venomous snakes are not considered a threat in Greece.
First, the venom has low toxicity and is not very dangerous when compared to other species. Second, when they feel threatened, Eastern 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!
Eastern 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 one, with only a few reported cases of venom ever being injected into a person.
Eastern 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.
#8. Greek Meadow Viper
- Vipera graeca
- Adults can grow up to 45 cm in total length.
- They are typically brown with a darker wavy dorsal stripe.
- The snout is NOT upturned, like the Asp Viper.
These venomous snakes are incredibly RARE to find in Greece!
In fact, they are in danger of going extinct, with only a few scattered populations remaining in the Pindos Mountains of central and northern Greece. Their main threats include habitat destruction due to agriculture and climate change in mountain areas, which is where many of them are found.
Greek Meadow Vipers are among the smallest venomous vipers 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.
Do you need more help identifying a venomous snake you saw in Greece?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
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Make sure to check out these guides to other animals found in Greece!
The 18 Types of Snakes That Live in Greece! (ID Guide)
The 30 MOST Common Birds That Live in Greece!
The 13 MOST Common SPIDERS Found in Greece!
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Greece?
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