Vipera ursinii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Viperidae

Scientific Name: Vipera ursinii (Bonaparte, 1835)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Meadow Viper, Orsini's Viper, Orsinis Viper
French Vipère des steppes, Vipère d'Orsini
Pelias ursinii (Bonaparte, 1835)
Taxonomic Notes: Crochet and Dubois (2004), reported that there are nine subspecies, and a new taxonomic revision would probably produce at least three species. They also reported that Nilson and Andrén (2001) had raised one European and several Asiatic subspecies to species status. However, Crochet and Dubois (2004) suggested that these results needed to be corroborated by complementary approaches. Joger and Stümpel (2005), recently recognized V. ursinii as being restricted to Europe, ranging as isolated populations from France in the west to Moldova in the east. They further recognized populations east of Moldova, formerly allocated to V. ursinii, as belonging to V. renardi (Christoph, 1861). Joger and Stümpel (2005), further considered the disjunct population from southwestern Turkey, to be the distinct species, V. anatolica Eiselt and Baran, 1970. The current arrangement of Joger and Stümpel (2005) is followed here as the most recent publication on this complex group. This species is within the subgenus Pelias (Nilson et al. 1999).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B2ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2008-12-14
Assessor(s): Ulrich Joger, Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovic, Milan Vogrin, Claudia Corti, Bogoljub Sterijovski, Alexander Westerström, László Krecsák, Valentin Pérez Mellado, Paulo Sá-Sousa, Marc Cheylan, Juan M. Pleguezuelos, Roberto Sindaco
Reviewer(s): Cox, N. and Temple, H.J. (Global Reptile Assessment)
Listed as Vulnerable because its Area of Occupancy is believed to be less than 2,000 km2, its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat. The northern and eastern lowland subspecies of V. ursinii are especially threatened and are considered to be nearly extinct.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species has a very fragmented range in southeastern France, the central Appenines of Italy, western and central Hungary, northern and southern Croatia, central and southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, southern Serbia, northern Albania, northwestern Macedonia, western Greece and central and eastern Romania. It is considered extinct in Austria and Bulgaria, and is close to extinction in Hungary and Moldova. It occurs up to about 2,700m asl.
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; France; Greece; Hungary; Italy; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Montenegro; Romania; Serbia
Possibly extinct:
Regionally extinct:
Austria; Bulgaria
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:It is generally uncommon or rare, and patchily distributed. It is now presumed to be extinct in Austria, Bulgaria and possibly also in Moldova.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is primarily associated with open meadows and hillsides. Upland subspecies are generally found on well drained rocky hillsides, steppe and meadows, while the lowland forms are found in either steppe, or dry or damp meadows. The lowland subspecies are sometimes found in marshy areas. It gives birth to live young; the female has between two and 22 young.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The conversion of traditionally farmed meadows to intensively cultivated and grazed land has caused significant declines in populations of this species in Central and southern Europe, most especially among lowland subspecies. Also, afforestation of alpine grasslands (because of abandonment of traditional agricultural practices) is a threat to the species in some areas. Construction of ski-runs and roads are significant threats to montane populations. Montane populations of this species may also be affected by increasing climate change, in particular the impact of temperature change on populations of important prey species (e.g.. Orthoptera) and breeding biology. In the Balkans, it relies on prey species (Orthoptera) which is highly sensitive to pollution, hence it may be used as a habitat quality indicator. In France, some well known localities in Italy, and other parts of the range it is collected for the pet trade, and like many species of snake it is persecuted.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Annex II of the Bern Convention, and on Annex IV of the European Union Habitat and Species Directive. Populations of this species from Europe are listed on Appendix I of CITES. Its range includes several protected areas. In-country conservation measures, such as maintaining suitable areas of meadow habitat, are underway to conserve some populations (e.g.. Hungary and Romania) (CoE, 2003). Detailed recommendations for conservation action to protect this species can be found in Edgar and Bird (2006).

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.4. Scale unspecified

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.3. Tourism & recreation areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.5. Other impacts
♦ timing:Future    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.3. Agro-industry grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.3. Other ecosystem modifications
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

0. Root -> 100.2. OLD 3-Research actions
1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Arnold, E.N. 2003. Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford.

Baron, J.-P., Ferriere, R. and Saint Girons, H. 1993. Differenciation morphologique de quatre popuations francaises de Vipera ursinii ursinii Bonaparte, 1835 (Reptilia, Viperidae). Revue suisse de Zoologie: 187-196.

Böhme, W. and Joger, U. 1984. Eine neue Art des Vipera berus-Komplexes aus der Turkei. Amphibia-Reptilia: 265-271.

Council of Europe (CoE). 2003. Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Group of experts on the conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles. Mälmo (Sweden), 26-27 September 2003. Report T-PVS (2003) 18.

Crochet, P.-A. and Dubois, A. 2004. Recent changes in the taxonomy of European amphibians and reptiles. In: J.-P. Gasc, A. Cabela,J. Crnobrnja-Isailovic, D. Dolmen, K. Grossenbacher, P. Haffner, J. Lescure, H. Martens, J.P Martínez Rica., H. Maurin, M.E. Oliveira, T.S. Sofianidou, M. Veith and A. Zuiderwijk (eds), Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Re-edition, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris.

Edgar, P. and Bird, D.R. 2006. Action Plan for the Conservation of the Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii) in Europe. Council of Europe document no. T-PVS/Inf (2006) 21.

Gasc, J.-P., Cabela, A., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, J., Dolmen, D., Grossenbacher, K., Haffner, P., Lescure, J., Martens, H., Martínez-Rica, J.P., Maurin, H., Oliveira, M.E., Sofianidou, T.S., Veith, M. and Zuiderwijk, A. 1997. Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica and Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

IUCN. 2009. European Species on the IUCN Red List. Available at: (Accessed: 22 June 2009).

Joger, U. 1984. The Venomous Snakes of the Near and Middle East. Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, A 12. Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag., Wiesbaden.

Joger, U. and Stümpel, N. 2005. Schlangen 3 - Vipern. Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas., AULA-Verlag GmbH, Wiebelsheim, Germany.

Kammel, W. 1992. Zur Situation der Wiesenotter, Vipera ursinii rakosiensis (Mehely, 1894) (Squamata: Serpentes: Viperidae), in Niederösterreich. Herpetozoa: 3-11.

Krecsák, L. and Zamfirescu, S. 2001. Ecological situation and morphological characteristics of Vipera ursinii moldavica in the "Valea Lui David" Nature Reserve. Russ. J. Herpetol.: 69-73.

Krecsák L. & Korsós Z. 2001. Vipera ursinii rakosiensis in Transilvania. – "II. Kolozsvári Biológus Napok" Conference, Abstracts, Cluj..

Krecsák, L., Zamfirescu, St. and Korsós, Z. 2003. An updated overview of the distribution of the Moldavian Steppe Viper (Vipera ursinii moldavica Nilson, Andrén and Joger, 1993). Russian Journal of Herpetology: 199-206.

McDiarmid, R.W., Campbell, J.A. and Touré, T.A. 1999. Snake Species of the World. Vol. 1. Herpetologists' League.

Nilson, G. and Andrén, C. 1988. A new subspecies of the subalpine meadow viper, Vipera ursinii (Bonaparte) (Reptilia, Viperidae), from Greece. Zoologica Scripta: 311-314.

Nilson, G., Tuniyev, B., Andrén, C. and Orlov, N. 1999. Vipers of Caucasus: Taxonomic considerations. Kaupia (Darmstadt): 103-106.

Sindaco, R., Doria, G., Razzetti, E. and Bernini, F. 2006. Atlas of Italian Amphibians and Reptiles\\Atlante Degli Anfibi E Dei Rettili D'Italia. Societas Herpetologica Italica - Edizioni Polistampa, Firenze.

Tomović, Lj., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J. and Ajtić, R. 2004. A preliminary study of the population ecology of Vipera ursinii macrops from eastern Montenegro. Amphibia-Reptilia: 316-320.

Vancea, St.;Saint Girons, H., Fuhn, I.E. and Stugren, B. 1985. Systématique et répartition de Vipera ursinii (Bonaparte, 1835) (Reptilia, Viperidae), en Roumanie. Bijdragen tot de Dierkunde: 233-241.

Citation: Ulrich Joger, Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovic, Milan Vogrin, Claudia Corti, Bogoljub Sterijovski, Alexander Westerström, László Krecsák, Valentin Pérez Mellado, Paulo Sá-Sousa, Marc Cheylan, Juan M. Pleguezuelos, Roberto Sindaco. 2009. Vipera ursinii. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T22997A9406628. . Downloaded on 22 June 2018.
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