Alburzi viper (Vipera eriwanensis)

Also known as: Armenian steppe viper
Synonyms: Acridophaga renardi, Vipera renadri, Vipera ursini
GenusVipera (1)
SizeMale total length: c. 29 cm (2)
Male tail length: c. 4 cm (2)

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

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

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).

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).

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).

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.

Find out about viper conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  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.