Nose-horned Viper

Vipera ammodytes





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Not evaluated Data deficient LEAST CONCERN Near threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically endangered Extinct in the wild Extinct
Assessment info
Habitat and Ecology
Use and Trade
Conservation Actions


Scientific name

Vipera ammodytes


(Linnaeus, 1758)



Assessment info

IUCN Red List Category and Criteria

LC – Least Concern

Date assessed

November 2019


Arsovski, D.

Sterijovski, B.


Tomović, L.




Hofman, M.P.G.


The Nose-horned Viper is very widespread in North Macedonia (extent of occurrence [EOO] = 24.286km2) and its limited area of occupancy (AOO) of 1.636 km2 is most likely an underestimation due to the general elusive nature of snakes. However, individuals (particularly large adults) are commonly persecuted by humans, and additionally often fall victims to roads and moving vehicles and are even known to be harvested for venom “milking”; the combined effects of all threats can reduce the species’ area of occupancy or even cause fragmentation in the near future suggesting it is Near Threatened. Nevertheless, this viper is quite common both in North Macedonia and in all neighboring countries, therefore national populations can likely benefit from regional rescue effects, promoting the downlisting of its category to Least Concern. Globally and in Europe, it has been assessed as Least Concern.

Golem Grad Island Nose-horned Viper population assessment: Vu D2
The isolated Golem Grad population is not under any current threat, but the tiny surface area of the island (20 ha, i.e. <20km2) make this population very prone to stochastic events that can easily make it critically endangered or even extinct in a short time period. For example, despite its strict protection within NP “Galichica”, island visits are not controlled and at few occasions local tourists have been observed attempting to harm vipers, whereas international “tourists” have been spotted secretly searching for individuals either for export or venom milking. These elusive animals are often difficult to spot in nature, but the island’s small surface area facilitates finding vipers. Unsystematic collection, particularly of pregnant females (either aimed, or collected by chance during July and August) could have devastating effects on such a population.


Current population trend



National population sizes are unknown, but the sheer amount of threats (persecution, habitat destruction, wildfires and road mortality) imply a decreasing population trend.
Modeling of Golem Grad Island Horn-nosed Viper capture-recapture data revealed that >1.500 individuals inhabit the island adding up to a very dense population of ~80 individuals per hectare (Tomović et al. 2019; unpublished data).

Habitat and Ecology



Habitat and Ecology

This species is associated with rocky areas but can be opportunistic in other habitats. It can be found in dry, often rocky habitats, including open woodland and scrub, sand dunes, hillsides, screes, stone walls, traditionally cultivated land, gardens, vineyards, open oak forests and beech forests. Equally favours man-made or natural rock formations. The species is ovoviviparous; mating occurs in May and by August females give birth to between four and 15 young (Agasyan et al. 2009; Speybroeck et al. 2016).

On Golem Grad Island vipers are markedly smaller (unpublished results). This is likely a consequence of a diet made up almost exclusively of lizards, juvenile dice snakes and centipedes (Arsovski et al. 2014), and therefore lacking the nutritious value small rodents would otherwise give.

Use and trade

Use and trade

Individuals are sometimes spotted as captive-bred by hobbyists and distributed within the international hobbyist community – online forums often offer individuals for sale born from vipers harvested from the area. The species is also unsystematically exploited for venom “milking” (personal communication). The experts have been approached at several occasions from individuals engaged in venom collection, where the price of venom was witnessed at 250 euros per milliliter, and an existing network of collectors from Negotino, Kavadarci, Strumica and Gevgelija was reported.



Habitat destruction, wildfires and roadkill are the main threats to this species. Most likely the most persecuted snake species by humans in North Macedonia due to its easily recognizable pattern and horn that is associated with danger and venom. Collection for the pet trade can be a threat, as well as unsystematic venom “milking”. Besides being collected from the wild, individuals are neither properly and ethically housed and milked (World Health Organization, 2016), nor are they released promptly since they can be milked multiple times (personal communications). Orders come from anonymous sources from abroad (mostly Greece according to personal communications) offering remuneration to untrained individuals to perform these dangerous activities (to both animal and person) often until the animal’s death.

All threats listed for this species are included in the “List of priority threats to biological diversity” in the “Strategy for biodiversity of Republic of North Macedonia” (Ministry of environment and physical planning, 2018).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions

It is listed on Annex II of the Bern Convention and on Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive. It appears on the list of nationally protected wild species.



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Uzunova, D., Kitanova, D., Spirovska, M., Hristovski, S 2015 Integral Report for the Project implementation. Final report of the project “Ecological data gap analysis and ecological sensitivity map development for the Bregalnica river watershed”. Skopje . .p /.

Sterijovski, B. 2018. Final report for monitoring. Maneko. Skopje . .p /.

Pharmachem. 2018. The Study on Biological Diversity in the Area of Sasa Mine – Makedonska Kamenica. Pharmachem Skopje. Skopje . .p /.

Sterijovski, B., Tomović, L., Ajtić, R. 2014. Contribution to the knowledge of the Reptile fauna and diversity in FYR of Macedonia. .p 83–92.

Uhrin et al. 2016. Distribution updates to amphibian and reptile fauna for the Republic of Macedonia. .p 201-220.

Ministry of environment and physical planning .2018. National biodiversity strategy and action plan : for the period 2018 – 2023. Ministry of environment and physical planning. Skopje. .p 183.

Speybroeck, J. Beuckema, W., Bok, B., Voort, J.V.D. 2016. Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles Bloomsbury Publishing Plc London . .p /.

Gasc, J-P., Cabela, A., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Dolmen, D., Grossenbacher, K., Haffner, P., Lescure, J., Martens, H., Martinez-Rica, J.P., Maurin, H., Oliveira, M.L., Sofianidou, T.S., Veith, M., Zuiderwijk, A. 1997. Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe Societas Europaea Herpetologica & Museum Nationall d’ Histoire Naturelle (IEGB/SPN). Paris. .p 496.

Tomović, Lj, Arsovski, D., Golubović, A., Nikolić, S., Andjelković, M., Sterijovski, B., Ajtić, R., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Boonnet, X 2019. Population characteristics of the nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) on Golem Grad Island (North Macedonia) . Milan, Italy . .p/.

Arsovski, D., Ajtić, R., Golubović, A., Trajčeska, I., Djordjević, S., Andjelković, M., Bonnet, X., Tomović, Lj. 2014. Two fangs good, a hundred legs better: juvenile viper devoured by an adult centipede it had ingested . .p 6-8.

Arsovski, D., Ajtić, R., Golubović, A., Trajčeska, I., Djordjević, S., Andjelković, M., Bonnet, X., Tomović, Lj. 2014 Two fangs good, a hundred legs better: juvenile viper devoured by an adult centipede it had ingested. .p 6-8.

Aram Agasyan, Aziz Avci, Boris Tuniyev, Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovic, Petros Lymberakis, Claes Andrén, Dan Cogalniceanu, John Wilkinson, Natalia Ananjeva, Nazan Üzüm, Nikolai Orlov, Richard Podloucky, Sako Tuniyev, Uğur Kaya, Roberto Sindaco, Wolfgang Böhme, Petros Lymberakis, Rastko Ajtic, Varol Tok, Ismail H. Ugurtas, Murat Sevinç, Ljiljana Tomović, Pierre-André Crochet, Idriz Haxhiu, Ulrich Joger, Bogoljub Sterijovski, Göran Nilson, Dušan Jelić .2009 .Vipera ammodytes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009 . .p /.

2016. WHO Guidelines for the Production, Control and Regulation of Snake Antivenom Immunoglobulins World Health Organization Geneva. .p 135.