Bruno D'Amicis - The tiniest viper


This is an old picture. I took it on a September afternoon of 2004, while hiking in the Gran Sasso National Park. Many years have gone by, but I can perfectly remember the marvellous joy of that encounter and the happiness of having found one of the true gems of the Apennine wildlife. The meadow or Ursini’s viper is a shy creature. It’s a snake about 35cm long, which lives among the dwarf junipers above the timberline on just very few mountain massifs in Europe and feeds almost exclusively on wingless crickets and grasshoppers. The colors of its scales perfectly match the characteristic lichen-crusted, calcareous stones of the Apennines. It is a venomous animal but too tiny to be harmful for people. Its habits are so secretive, its temperature and climate requirements so strict, that very seldom one can meet this mountain dweller. Nevertheless, several snakes get killed every summer as too many people still consider them dangerous.

Look well into the eyes of this viper. Climate change, unregulated livestock farming and habitat destruction made it an endangered species. If nothing will be done to change this trend, it might disappear, silently and secretly as it lived. And the most sad thing is that probably only very few people would even notice it.

Tags: apennines, bruno damicis, endangered, endemic, meadow viper, mountains, snake, vipera ursini

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  1. RWS Photo said:

    26/05/2011 11:55

    yikes. danger danger

  2. Marcos G. Meider said:

    26/05/2011 13:50

    Beautiful!!. Certainly they are wonderful creatures.

  3. Sven Zacek said:

    01/06/2011 13:00

    I like to slide feel of this photo and you make a good point in your story. I guess there are a lot of species out there that only conservationists and nature photographers admire. Others probably don't even know they exist and would not mind if they didn't.