|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Vipera berus is a venomous viper species that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and all the way to Far East Asia. They are not regarded as highly dangerous; bites can be very painful, but are seldom fatal. The specific name, berus, is New Latin and was at one time used to refer to a snake, possibly the grass snake, Natrix natrix. Three subspecies are recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.|
From western Europe (Great Britain, Scandinavia, France) across central (Italy, Albania, Bulgaria, and northern Greece) and eastern Europe to north of the Arctic Circle, and Russia to the Pacific Ocean, Sakhalin Island, North Korea, northern Mongolia and northern China. The type locality is listed as "Europa." Mertens and Müller (1940) proposed restricting the type locality to "Upsala, Schweden" (Uppsala, Sweden).
Sufficient habitat complexity is a crucial requirement for the presence of this species, in order to support their various behaviors -- basking, foraging and hibernation -- as well as to offer some protection from predators and human harassment. It is found in variety of habitats, including: chalky downs, rocky hillsides, moors, sandy heaths, meadows, rough commons, edges of woods, sunny glades and clearings, bushy slopes and hedgerows, dumps, coastal dunes and stone quarries. They will venture into wetlands if dry ground is available nearby. Therefore, they may be found on the banks of streams, lakes and ponds.
In much of southern Europe, such as southern France and northern Italy, it is found in either low lying wetlands or at high altitudes. In the Swiss Alps, it may ascend to about 3000 m. In Hungary and Russia, it avoids open steppeland; a habitat in which V. ursinii is more likely to occur. In Russia, however, it does occur in the forest steppe zone.
Males find females by following their scent trails, sometimes tracking them for hundreds of meters a day. If a female is found and flees, the male follows. Courtship involves side-by-side parallel "flowing" behavior, tongue flicking along the back and excited lashing of the tail. Pairs stay together for one or two days after mating. Males chase away their rivals and engage in combat. Often, this also starts with the aforementioned flowing behavior before culminating in the dramatic "adder dance." In this act, the males confront each other, raise up the front part of the body vertically, make swaying movements and attempt to push each other to the ground. This is repeated until one of the two becomes exhausted and crawls off to find another mate. Interestingly, Appleby (1971) notes that he has never seen an intruder win one of these contests, as if the frustrated defender is so aroused by courtship that he refuses to lose his chance to mate. There are no records of any biting taking place during these bouts.
Females usually give birth in August-September, but sometimes as early as July, or as late as early October. Litters range in size from 3 to 20. The young are usually born encased in a transparent sac from which they must free themselves. Sometimes, they succeed in freeing themselves from this membrane while still inside the female. The neonates, measuring 14 to 23 cm (average of 17 cm), are born with a fully functional venom apparatus and a reserve supply of yolk within their bodies. They shed their skins for the first time within a day or two. Females do not appear to take much interest in their offspring, but the young have been observed to remain near their mothers for several days after birth.
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