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Ursini's Viper

Image of a Ursini's Viper

Vipera ursinii (Bonaparte, 1835)

The Ursini's Viper is mainly distributed in Central Asia, while in Italy it is present exclusively on the most important massifs of the Central Apennines, particularly on the Sibillini Mounts in Umbria and Marche, as well as on the Reatini and Laga Mounts and on the Duchessa Mountains in Lazio and finally on the Velino mountains, on the Laga, Gran Sasso d'Italia, Feudo d'Ugni and La Maielletta Mounts (Blockhaus), as well as on the Marsicano Mount and La Camosciara, in Abruzzo.

Within Majella National Park this species is present in the area between the Ugni Mountain, the Forcone Valley and the Majelletta-Blockhaus area, where it frequents the most thin woods of mountain pine and the mountain rocky grasslands above 1,500 m of altitude, particularly those characterized by the presence of nana juniper, where the species finds shelter if threatened by predators, but also while hunting for preys. Due to its docile and not aggressive nature, but also to the weak poison which is used to paralyze orthoperans (its main food), it is considered the less dangerous viper in Europe and is totally harmless for man. It is smaller than the asp viper and generally not longer than 50 cm; it can be distinguished from the other species thanks to the narrow head, really triangular on the top, and for the characteristic coloration of the back, constituted by a deep zigzag brown stripe with black borders. It is considered one of the more threatened snake species in Europe, therefore it has been included in Appendix II of the Habitat Directive 92/43 CEE dedicated to species needing special conservation areas.

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