Asp Viper Vipera aspis

Scientific Name: Vipera aspis (Viperidae). 'Aspis' = 'viper'.

English Name: Asp Viper; Asp; European Asp; Aspic Viper; European Viper; Jura Viper (Viper family).

French Name: Vipère aspic.

5 Key Characters:
  • venomous (the only effectively venomous snake in the area, very painful bite).
  • adults generally around 60 cm (can be as long as 85 cm).
  • broad triangular head, clearly distinct from body.
  • tip of snout slightly upturned and pupils vertical slits.
  • very variable markings along the back, rarely a clear zigzag pattern.

Lookalikes: Adder V. berus, which has a clear zigzag pattern along the back, but is extinct in the Touraine. Viperine Snake Natrix maura, which will try to pretend it is a viper but is really a type of grass snake, not venomous, generally a bit longer and more slender, more likely to be in or near water, has round pupils.

Habitat: Warm sunny areas, dry soils, vegetation that is upright and not too tangled. Favours limestone slopes and places with some vegetative cover. Woodland or scrubland clearings or edges.

If You Are Bitten: Stay calm; photograph the snake if you can so it can be identified; get help immediately from someone who can take you to Urgences (Accident and Emergency) at the nearest hospital. The European emergency number is 112. The bite will swell, discolour and hurt like hell. Your vision may be affected. However, no adult human has died of snakebite in France for several decades, and bites from this species are rarely fatal (4% of cases), even if untreated.

Status: Protected. Uncommon but population probably stable.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

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