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Venomous Snakes of the Turkish Mediterranean

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Of the five regions of Turkey, the eight provinces on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea compose the Mediterranean region. This region includes agricultural terraces and coastal plains as well as the Taurus mountains parallel to the coast. Nine venomous snakes, all classified in the family Viperidae, live in Turkey. Four of these snakes can be found within the provinces that make up the Mediterranean region.

Ottoman Viper

The Ottoman viper (Montivipera xanthina) is a fairly common viper species found throughout the Mediterranean, including Turkey, Greece and many of the Mediterranean islands. Growing up to 4 feet, the Ottoman viper is the longest venomous snake that lives in Europe. As with many other viper species, the snake typically has a lighter-colored tan or gray scales patterned with dark blotches. The Ottoman viper makes home in gardens, vineyards and olive groves throughout the region.

Anatolian Viper

In a small area of Mediterranean forest in the Taurus Mountains, the rare Anatolian viper (Vipera anatolica) makes home. The IUCN classifies the species as endangered; it has been seen only in a single protected cedar forest preserve. Little is known about this snake, leading the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to commission a study of the behavior and habitat so the creature can be better protected. The snake was elevated to full species status in 2001, but in the decade following only five sightings of this elusive snake were reported.

Northern Viper

The northern viper (Vipera berus), also called the common adder, lives throughout Europe and Asia. The snake's large geographic range extends from the Arctic Circle in the north to the Mediterranean Sea, where he lives on Turkish soil in habitats ranging from open grasslands to forests and marshes. The snake grows to a maximum of 2.5 feet, with pale tan to gray scales crisscrossing with dark zigzag patterns. Although the adder is protected in some European countries within his range, the snake is fairly common and has no special conservation status.

Mount Bulgar Viper

Another somewhat rare mountain species, the Mount Bulgar viper (montivipera bulgardaghica) lives exclusively in a limited portion of the eastern Taurus mountains in Turkey. Although the species was considered critically endangered as recently as 1996, the IUCN removed special conservation status from the species in 2009, listing it as of least concern. The snake favors rocky mountain habitat with open Mediterranean forests; plenty of suitable habitat is available in the species' geographic range. The IUCN presumes the Mount Bulgar viper has a large enough population to no longer be considered under threat.