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Venomous at first sight?

The common viper (Vipera aspis francisciredi) is the only venomous snake, usually found in woodland glades. Its pupil is vertically elliptical in shape, a trait common to all vipers and a distinctive feature that differentiates them from non-venomous snakes, whose pupils are typically round.

For their livelihood and reproduction, reptiles need specific environmental conditions: the availability of a wide variety of prey, the presence of a suitable habitat (dry or/and wet), areas which are fit for spawning their eggs and ideal hiding places and holes for the winter period. For its dimension, the presence of streams and protected  areas, the Muzzana woods offer a remarkable amount of ideal habitats for the subsistence of these animals.

A reptile which is closely related to wet environments is the European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis). Due to the reduction of wet areas, the alcoves suitable for this type of reptile have become rarer and rarer in Italy. Because of this, it has been included in the attachments of the Habitat Directives and it appears in the Red List of the animals in Italy at risk of extinction. This charming reptile, about 15cm long, feeds on aquatic invertebrates, small fish and amphibians.

Among the lizards that live on the borders of the fields and of the woods there are: the western green lizard (Lucerta bilineata), the Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis murali) and the slow worm (Anguis fragilis).

The smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), the green whip snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) and the Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) are among the snakes which one can encounter. Close to the streams, one may find the grass snake  (Natrix natrix) and the dice snake (Natrix tassellata).

The only poisonous snake to be found mainly in the glades is the European asp (Vipera aspis francisciredi). Its colour is generally red-brown-greyish with short transversal scales but this may vary considerably from one individual to the other. It can reach and sometimes exceed the length of 60 cm; it feeds mainly on small mammals but also on lizards and frogs. Its pupils have a vertically elliptical shape which is a common characteristic of all vipers. 

Vipers bite either to prey or to defend themselves and they are not able to measure the amount of venom they inoculate when they do so. Whether it is dealing with a rat or a human being, vipers inject the same amount of venom, and this quantity (10% of the contents of the venom gland), does not generally result in being fatal for an adult human being. Even if it does represent a potential danger, one must remember that this reptile flees when it is aware signs of human presence and never attacks if it is not disturbed.

For a comprehensive overview of the species, please visit our checklist.