Mountain viper (Montivipera albizona)

Female mountain viper
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Mountain viper fact file

Mountain viper description

GenusMontivipera (1)

A member of the Viperidae family, the mountain viper (Montivipera albizona) is a venomous snake with a single pair of hollow fangs (2). It is generally believed to be a small species, with a relatively short tail (3) (4).

The scientific name of the mountain viper is derived from the words ‘white’ and ‘belt’ and refers to the white bands that run along the back of the snake (3). These bands are separated by brick-red to brown blotches, which have a blackish border (3) (4) (5). This well-pronounced pattern runs from the head to the tail of the snake (4).

The mountain viper is also marked with two blackish patches on the neck that are separate from the main pattern, and a broad black band running from the eye to the corner of the mouth (3) (5). The underside of the mountain viper is greyish and marked with small blotches and spots (3) (4) (5).

Vipera albizona.

Mountain viper biology

Very little is known about the biology of this rare species, although the mountain viper is likely to have aspects in common with other members of the viper family. Vipers are generally ambush predators, striking their prey with long, hollow fangs which they use to inject venom. The fangs are hinged, and are folded back against the roof of the mouth when not in use. Vipers may also strike in self-defence (2).

It is not known whether the mountain viper lays eggs or gives birth to live young (1).


Mountain viper range

The mountain viper has a restricted range and can only be found in Turkey (1). It is only known from a few locations, including the Sivas province and the Kahramanmaraş province (1) (5). It is believed that populations may occur between these two locations, which are approximately 250 kilometres apart (1).


Mountain viper habitat

A montane species, the mountain viper is known to occur at elevations between 1,500 and 1,800 metres above sea level (1). It has been found in grassland habitat with rocky slopes and sparse shrubs (1) (4).


Mountain viper status

The mountain viper is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Mountain viper threats

While there are no known threats to the habitat of the mountain viper, this species is at risk from collection for the international pet trade (1). The mountain viper has only been observed in five locations and is therefore vulnerable to over-collection. As with other species of viper, the mountain viper is also subject to persecution by humans and may be intentionally killed (1).


Mountain viper conservation

The mountain viper is not known to occur in any protected areas but is afforded some protection by its listing on Appendix II of the Bern Convention (1) (6). Further research into the ecology and distribution of the mountain viper is needed in order to understand how to best conserve it, and any future trade in this species needs to be carefully regulated (1).


Find out more

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Of mountains, or growing in mountains.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. MobileReference (2008) Encyclopedia of North American Reptiles and Amphibians. MobileReference, Boston.
  3. Nilson, G., Andren, C. and Flardh, B. (1990) Vipera albizona a new mountain viper from central Turkey, with comments on isolating effects of the Anatolian “diagonal’’. Amphibia-Reptilia, 11(3): 285-294.
  4. Mulder, J. (1994) Additional information on Vipera albizona (Reptilia, Serpentes, Viperidae). Deinsea, 1: 77-83.
  5. Göçmen, B., Hüseyin, A., Yildiz, M.Z., Mermer, A. and Alpagut-Keskin, N. (2009) Serological characterization and confirmation of the taxonomic status of Montivipera albizona (Serpentes, Viperidae) with an additional new locality record and some phylogenetical comments. Animal Biology, 59(1): 87-96.
  6. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (November, 2011)

Image credit

Female mountain viper  
Female mountain viper

© Kevin Oberson

Kevin Oberson


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