Alburzi viper (Vipera eriwanensis)

Alburzi viper
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Alburzi viper fact file

Alburzi viper description

GenusVipera (1)

A small, little-known viper, the Alburzi viper (Vipera eriwanensis) was originally described from one specimen in 1933, and only one known author has since tried to adequately describe this snake (2).

The Alburzi viper typically has a grey to brown body, decorated with 54 to 78 zig-zag bands extending from the neck to the tip of the tail. It has a higher number of scales on the head, underside and back than other similar vipers in its range. However, the Alburzi viper is extremely variable in its scale numbers and patterning, probably due to varying local conditions (2).

Also known as
Armenian steppe viper.
Acridophaga renardi, Vipera renadri, Vipera ursini.
Male total length: c. 29 cm (2)
Male tail length: c. 4 cm (2)

Alburzi viper biology

Although very little is known about the Alburzi viper, related viper species consume a variety of food items, including small mammals, amphibians and insects (4). All vipers are venomous, and possess long, hollow fangs which can be folded against the roof of the mouth when not in use (5). After striking its prey, the viper waits for its venom to take effect and immobilise, paralyse and kill the prey. Like some closely related species, the Alburzi viper may have fast-acting venom that quickly immobilises its prey before the prey can move away and be lost in the viper’s rocky mountain habitat (6).

For most of the year, the Alburzi viper is active during the day, but during the summer, it becomes active during the morning and evening. It is active during the months of April to October, before a period of hibernation between October and April. A viviparous species, the Alburzi viper gives birth to up to ten offspring at a time (1).


Alburzi viper range

The Alburzi viper occurs in Armenia, Azerbaijan and north-eastern Turkey, at elevations between 1,000 and 3,000 metres (1).


Alburzi viper habitat

The mountain-dwelling Alburzi viper inhabits rocky outcrops in short grass steppe. It can also be found in rural agricultural areas and meadows (1) (3).


Alburzi viper status

The Alburzi viper is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Alburzi viper threats

The primary threat to the Alburzi viper is habitat degradation. Its habitat is used intensively for farmland and it is particularly threatened by overgrazing by domestic livestock (1).


Alburzi viper conservation

The Alburzi viper occurs within the grasslands of the Khosrov and Dilijan Reserve in Armenia (1), which should offer its habitat some protection. However, there are no specific conservation measures currently in place for this threatened snake.


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This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.


: a winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate.
A biome (major regional biological community) that is composed of a swathe of temperate grassland stretching from Romania to China.
Giving birth to live offspring that develop inside the mother’s body.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  2. Kutrup, B., Bülbül, U. and Yilmaz, N. (2004) On the distribution and morphology of the steppe viper, Vipera eriwanensis, (Reuss, 1933), from Gaver mountain (Gümüşhane). Turkish Journal of Zoology, 29: 321-325.
  3. Zazanashvili, N. and Mallon, D. (2009) Status and Protection of Globally Threatened Species in the Caucasus. Contour Ltd, Tbilisi, Georgia.
  4. Starkov, V.G., Osipov, A.V. and Utkin, Y. (2007) Toxicity of venoms from vipers of Pelias group to crickets Gryllus assimilis and its relation to snake entomophagy. Toxicon, 49: 995-1001.
  5. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Sanz, L., Ayvazyan, N. and Calvete, J.J. (2008) Snake venomics of the Armenian mountain vipers Macrovipera lebetina and Vipera raddei. Journal of Proteomics, 71: 198-209.

Image credit

Alburzi viper  
Alburzi viper

© Tigran Tadevosyan

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