The european adder

Male viper

Fig. 101. The viper (also known as the adder) comes out of hibernation in early spring, but many are only seen by people who experience the nature during the summer.

The common European adder, or European viper, Vipera berus, is the only venomous snake in Denmark. It has a zigzag stripe down the back. The stripe may be missing from the rarer, plain black or red varieties. Grass snakes, which are non-toxic, have two yellow neck spots. These spots are always missing in vipers. The viper only bites at people if it is impossible to escape – if someone steps on it, for example.

The bite appears as two fine dots on the skin, typically with about 8 mm of spacing. It is immediately painful and therefore there is usually no doubt about the cause. The venom breaks down the red blood cells and this appears by a temporary discoloration on the site of the bite. There may be swelling and the bite victim can feel uncomfortable. The course is usually benign.

What to do? Stay calm and relaxed. Keep the bite victim at rest and contact the nearest doctor. The doctor can then assess the situation by the symptoms and – if necessary – provide a serum against the viper venom.