Meeting the venomous European adder (Vipera berus) on a hike

in nature •  2 months ago

We generally don't have many animals to fear in the wild here in Norway, and I rarely hear about people who have gotten injured or sick from attacks by wildlife. We do have some predators such as wolves, bears, wolverines, and lynxes, but the chance of getting attacked by them when on a walk in the forest is next to non-existent.

There are however a few animals to be wary of, and I met one of these yesterday during a small hike with some friends and my dogs.

DSC_0265 – Kopi.JPG

This snake is a common European adder (Vipera berus), and it can be found in most parts of the Eurasian northern hemisphere. This is one of three species of snakes we have in Norway, and the only one that is venomous. It's pretty much the only animal with real venomous capabilities in Norway, but despite this, it's not really that dangerous. A bite can be fatal in worst case scenarios, but most bites are just a painful experience that are easily solved with antidote.

Meeting an European adder is not uncommon at all, and I find a few ones most summers. Some people I talk with claim to never have seen it before, but I think most people have been very close to one without even realizing. This guy is the first I have found this year, and I'm very happy that neither of the dogs ran towards it to investigate.

A bitten dog could get in a lot of trouble, and could for sure be fatal, since dogs tend to get bitten around their snouts. Both just passed by it, so I put them on a leash and returned to take some photos while they were at a safe distance.

The photos are not very close-up at all, because it would be so embarrassing to ruin the hike because I got stupidly close while trying to get a photo. Anyway, if you are familiar with this species then I'm sure you know that this individual is lacking the distinct zigzag patterns on its back. Most people learn to identify it by this alone, but it's important to remember that these completely black ones are also European adders, and that you should keep a safe distance from them .

The completely black individuals are called melanistic, and it is the complete opposite of albinism (where organisms lack all color pigments). Anyway, here is a great photo to see the two different color patterns that we can have on European adders:


Both these snakes are the same species, with one is a melanistic individual. Photo by Malene Thyssen, posted with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Getting bitten by a European adder

While I did not get bitten by the adder this time, 11-year old me once got a bit reckless with one while playing in the forest. It's been 15 years since the incident, but I still remember the incident. I was walking around in tall grass when I felt a sting in my leg. I run a few meters back and see the culprit. I get a bit stressed out by the fact that I got bit by a venomous snake, and head straight home where my parents take me to the hospital.

I was at observation in the hospital for 6 hours or so before they could conclude that it was most likely a dry bite, meaning that the snake had bit without releasing venom. About half of all bites are dry bites, and these are obviously not dangerous at all.

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I have never seen this completely black adder. I have seen ones with the pattern which you can see in this image. What’s the difference between these two ? FD3946CF-08FB-461B-A06A-3C5BAF4C2023.jpeg

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It's exactly the same, it's just that the black one has a genetic "disorder" that makes it produce way too much black pigment. Both are European adders - called huggorm in Swedish I think.

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I see - that’s very interesting! Huggorm is the right word :)

Oh great and amazing photography @valth. Very well done!! ☺

Thanks for sharing this post.

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Thanks, I'm glad you liked the photo :)

Great shots! Must have taken some courage to get that close :) We have that species here too but I have never seen the all-black (melanistic) form. I guess you must have been very lucky, these conditions usually have a very low occurence rate (like one in millions).

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Hehe, my wife was impressed that I wanted to get that close. They are not generally a very aggressive snake though, so I don't feel like I took a big risk. But it's definitely a good argument towards buying a lens with better zoom capabilities ;) Hehe

I don't think that are all that rare, and for sure not one in a million. From what I understand, the melanistic gene is a lot more common in snakes than in other animals, since it gives them a huge evolutionary advantage (they can absorb a lot more heat, which is pretty nice for thermoregulation) as long as it does not significantly increase their risk of being predated.

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I did some brief research and you are right, this condition is not that rare in reptiles. Like you correctly stated, it actually gives them an advantage when it comes to thermoregulation.

I wrote an article about albinism and melanism in mammals some time ago (not on Steemit though) and that is where I probably got confused from as the occurence rate of these conditions is much lower in mammals ;)

What a fascinating post. I spent my earliest childhood years wandering around a Hudson Valley (NY) forest. There were venomous snakes, but I never saw one. I think, like your dogs, I must have come close many times but was blissfully ignorant of the danger. Glad I didn't know about danger back then. Wouldn't have been half as much fun.
The photos are wonderful.

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Hehe, yeah, sometimes it's best not to know about the dangers that are close to one. Thanks for stopping by, @agmoore!

Never seen the black one before...

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Really? Some sources claim that the black ones are pretty common, but I'm beginning to doubt it, since no one in the comments here seem to have seen one before.

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"den svarte varianten er tildels vanlig enkelte steder. Hvit og svart gir dårligere kamuflasje i naturen, men svarte individer blir raskere oppvarmet av solen enn de lyse. Det kan forklare hvorfor svarte hoggormer er vanligere i de nordligste delene av utbredelsesområdet enn i de sørligste." -Wikipedia

så det er nok derfor jeg ikke har truffet på en svart enda, jeg beveger meg somregel i den sørlige delen av landet.

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Ah, det var artig informasjon. Den som er avbildet her er fra Østlandet, så da har jeg vel hatt litt flaks :)

It was still safer to get checked out knowing that it's a venomous snake. Will they move away if you stomp? Over here we usually teach our kids to stomp and otherwise make a bit of noise through long grass/thick vegetation as it then gives snakes plenty of warning and they move away from you so you don't surprise each other.

Smart idea staying away anyway, yes it would have been terribly embarrassing if you'd had to admit in this very post about how you got bitten by the snake you were trying to photograph XD

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Yep, they should move away if we stomp. This species is not generally aggressive, and will only bite if it's unable be get away, or as self defense. We learn the stomping thing over here as well, despite the risk of dying from a snake bite is ridiculously low. I'm sure it's a very different reality for you people down under!

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There are a few nasty ones around. General rules are stomp if you can't see the ground or are near water especially in warm weather, don't stick fingers into holes, and don't swim if you can't see the bottom of the river/ lake ;D

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I don't like snakes.
I am amused to see a snake.
I am also afraid to meet snakes.

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Hehe, I don't really like them myself, but I just had to get a photo when I came across one ;)

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Yes, we must careful with them.

Amazing discovery man, we have them too in Belgium... But the last live one I saw was more than 20 years ago... A black one is completely new to me, amazing beauty!

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Wow, that's a long time ago. I assume that they are pretty rare in Belgium then?

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yep, only in some natural parcs, and in the south of our country but you wouldn't spot one if you were looking for them...

This type of incident can.t forget ,although that was a dry bite.
I don,t like snake whether they are beautiful,but photographs are giving clear images.

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I can see why you don't like them. Most snakes can do a lot of damage to people if you get unlucky.

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Yeah, you are absolutely right.

Your pics are damn scary ,i fear these reptiles how did you went so close cant even imagine them😱

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Hehe, I can understand that. Some of the people I went with were scared, but I just don't naturally get afraid of most reptiles. We have very few ones that can actually kill us here in Norway, so it's not really a lot to be afraid of.

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Ooh you are brave ,here in my country too we have a lot of reptiles really a lot big ones and i just pray never to see one of them😂

Ooops... it dangerous. Very hard to take close picture of this snake. But its beautifulllll

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Yep, it's a beautiful snake indeed :)

That's really a dangerous snake, how did you manage to get a close picture. Nice post

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I just walked close to her :P Hehe

Very informative post ,deadly snakes they are .I hope u will be alright after taking their pics

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Thanks. I didn't get bit this time, so I'm fine :)

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May God bless you always ,and protect you ,be careful

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Thanks :)

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OMG I usually skip posts with snakes before because I dislike it even pix/vids haha but you know I saw a black snake similar size on your photo in my niece's bed next to mine few months ago I thought it was the end of me hahaha I'd die of nervousness 😅

Oh! I'm terrified of them! You are a fearless guy!
Still decided to take pictures of these dangerous reptiles.
I would run from him with all my legs ))
But the picture is very spectacular.
Although it is better not to meet them on the way, @valth

Ohhhh its so dengerous snake is so long.... Capture beautifuly...

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Thanks!

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Awesome, thanks.



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