Believe it or not, you can find 5 types of venomous snakes in Russia.
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.”
5 Venomous Snakes in Russia!
*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.*
- 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 Russia.
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. Halys Pit Viper
- Gloydius halys
Also known as Siberian Pit Viper, Halys Viper, Pallas’s Pit Viper, Asiatic Pit Viper, Asiatic Moccasin, and Mongolian Pit Viper.
- The Halys pit viper can grow to a maximum length of 59 cm (23 in).
- Their coloring is gray, red, pale brown, or yellow, with large dark spots, crossbars, and a white belly speckled with gray or brown.
The Halys Pit Viper is a venomous snake found in southern Russia (near Mongolia).
Its habitat includes montane slopes and plains or rocky high mountain plateaus. It is a terrestrial snake, mostly found on the ground. Look for this species during the day, which is its preferred time to hunt. Its diet includes lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, and frogs.
Keep a respectful distance if you see the Halys Pit Viper in the wild! This is an incredibly dangerous snake. Its venom contains neurotoxins, which affect the brain and nerves, and necrotoxins, which cause bleeding and infection.
Bite symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of venom exposure. Victims have reported excruciating pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, respiratory distress, dizziness, collapse, or convulsions. The best way to avoid being bitten is to be cautious in this snake’s range and back away slowly if you discover one.
#3. Ussuri Mamushi
- Gloydius ussuriensis
Also known as Ussuri Pit Viper or Ussuri Mamushi.
- Adults are 37-64 cm (15-26 in) in length.
- Their coloring is light brown-gray to black with large, dark, elliptical blotches on the back and sides.
- The medium-sized eyes have vertical pupils.
Look for the Ussuri Mamushi near open grassland, forest edges, marshes, and paddy fields in eastern Russia. This terrestrial pit viper spends most of its time on the ground. Since it’s nocturnal, your best chance to see one is while it hunts for frogs and mice at night.
However, this is one dangerous snake you probably want to avoid rather than go looking for it. It’s a particularly aggressive species and quick to bite if threatened. Its bites cause excruciating pain, producing internal organ hemorrhages and bleeding at bite sites. Victims typically need a hospital stay of up to a week to recover.
#4. Tiger Keelback
- Rhabdophis tigrinus
- Adults are 60–100 cm (24–39 in) long.
- Their coloring is checkered olive green and black with orange, yellow, or red crossbars on the first third of the body.
- The underside is white to cream.
Tiger Keelbacks are highly venomous, but they don’t produce their own toxins. Instead, they ingest and reuse toxins from the toads they eat. Once they eat the toad, they store its toxins in the nuchal glands and use them as a defensive mechanism. That’s one way to ensure you use every part of your prey!
The Tiger Keelback uses its tongue as much as its vision to hunt for prey. This is because it has sensitive receptors that react to chemicals in its prey, leading it directly to its next meal. This ability is why you may have heard that some snakes in Russia can “smell” with their tongues!
This species is sensitive to colder temperatures and is less likely to run away when the weather is cold. So, be alert of your surroundings in cooler seasons to ensure you don’t run afoul of the Tiger Keelback. In warmer weather, it’s more likely to flee than to try and fight.
You can only find Tiger Keelbacks in Russia in the far eastern parts of the country.
#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 Russia.
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 southern Russia 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.
Do you want to learn about other animals in Russia?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Russia?
Leave a comment below!