The Common European Adder is the most widespread venomous snake in Europe. Luckily, it’s very skittish and would rather run than attack a human. Adders adapt easily and they can be seen in a variety of landscapes – be it a sandy seashore, a mountain alley or a typical forest.
This snake lives in the central part of Europe to as far north as the Polar area and even to the very eastern coast of Eurasia. In appearance, the sexes are quite different – the females are up to 30 cm longer than males, reaching 90 cm total length, while males are only a bit more than half a meter long. The colouration also differs, as the female is of rusty colour, while the male is yellow to grayish green, although both the sexes have a darker colour pattern on their backs which distinguishes them from other snakes.
Although very adaptable creatures, Adders prefer forest territories. They usually live alone and lead a nocturnal lifestyle. The snake’s habits depend on the season – in spring and fall, the Adder spends countless hours warming in the sun, while during the hot period, they prefer shadow. In winter, Adders hibernate, usually sleeping under rocks or in small caves and it’s not unusual that a single spot is a shelter for multiple snakes at winter.
A male Adder warming in the sun
Common European Adders patrol a relatively small territory, which they know very well, being aware of all ambush spots for easier hunting. Mice become victims of the Adder most frequently, while the snake won’t pass small lizards, frogs, birds or other small animals. After a surprise attack, the snake injects venom in the victim’s body and chases the victim for a few minutes until the venom starts affecting the animal. Young Adders feed almost only on lizards.
A Common European Adder eating a lizard
During the mating period, males fight for the females’ attention. The ritual fights are rather interesting – two males stand up almost vertically and twist around each other and try to force the rival to the ground, as in a kind of a wrestling match. After copulation, the female produces 5-15 eggs which develop inside the mother’s body. In August or September the young Adders are born. They look like a miniature of their parents, reaching 9-16 in length. Unlike other snake hatchlings that immediately start independent lives, Adders usually stay with their mother for a few months and they spend their first winter with her.
Currently, Adders are not endangered, although their population is on a decline due to the destruction of their natural habitat. The hedgehog is also a ferocious enemy for these snakes, as the small spiked mammals are immune to the Adder’s venom. Also, being the only venomous snake in many European countries, it is often feared, despite the fact that the Adder almost never attacks a human.