Cyprus Nature – Close encounter with a blunt-nosed Viper

Close encounter

with a blunt-nosed Viper

By Ralph Kratzer

Blunt-nosed-viperLast year I wrote an article about the snakes of Cyprus (click here), which is to date, along with a later post on the spiders of Cyprus (click here), one of the most read articles on our websites.

One kind of snake I wrote about, was the blunt-nosed Viper also known as Levante Viper. It is the most poisonous sort of snake on this island. A bite can even be lethal for humans.

They are not as rare as it is said. Since I live close to the Besparmak mountains, I see some of them every year in my garden. I could watch them making love on my driveway and once even one of my dogs was bitten by a viper (remember the post “Deadly dangers for your dog in Cyprus” – click here!)

Paul Thomas, one of our readers and a member of The Foreign Residents in the TRNC (TFR), recently sent me a small contribution and pictures about his and his wife´s personal experience with this kind of snake.

Here it comes:

Snake and rat_4We were sitting in the courtyard having tea late one afternoon and [my wife] Patti heard a squeaking sound from the garden. At the same time, we noticed some of the cats gathered around the large palm tree at the bottom of the garden, looking at something up the tree. Patti went to investigate: “Is it a bird? Is it a tree rat? Is it a . . . Oh my God!”. What it was you can see from the photos. The snake (a blunt-nose viper, v. poisonous, rare, and protected) had coiled its body round a rat with its fangs embedded in the neck, pumping in venom. The rat was squealing and struggling, more and more feebly, until it gave up the ghost, whereupon the snake proceeded to dislocate its jaw, open its mouth wide, and swallow the rat whole, head first. The last we saw of it was its tail, as you can see in the final photo. The whole event took about 15 minutes. The sort of thing you see in TV nature programmes, not in your own garden!

P.S. And for our friends of spiders: some images further down, a Tarantula that had been heroically caught by my girlfriend at the time in one of our bathrooms and released into nature again…

5 replies »

  1. The blunt-nosed viper is a species, not sort/kind of snake, and it is venomous, not poisonous. What you refer to as “making love” is more likely the combat dancing of males (fighting for a female during mating season). The snake strangling the rodent in the tree is most likely a coin snake (Hemorrhois nummifer). They are rather hard to observe according to my experience. Congratulations to your interesting snake encounters! You can submit your animal & plant photos to the group “Biodiversity of Cyprus”, they are also on Facebook.

  2. When I lived in Famagusta in the 1950’s as a teenager, I was very interested in the local wildlife and used to catch (for observation only) many snakes,usually the black racers but in the lowland areas I never found a viper. When I came back for a holiday in 1974 I I did catch one in the Kyrenia foothills which I caught for my children to look at. They are a heavy and not very agile snake and I could hold it by its tail,making sure I held it at arms length with reasonable safety. Do not try this method with a black snake as it will have no trouble climbing its own body and will give you a well deserved bite and you will spend several minutes unhooking its many teeth from whatever part of your anatomy was nearest.