Berg Adder (Bitis atropos)


This is a small adder that on average grows to 35 – 40 cm in length, with a maximum of 49 cm. The head is covered in small, keeled scales and the head is triangular in shape and distinct from the neck. The eye has a vertical pupil. The common name Berg adder is derived from Afrikaans and mean mountain adder. This should then point to its preferred habitat.


This small adder has hinged front fangs.


The venom is a cytotoxic/neurotoxic combination. Pain and swelling will take place at the bite site. The swelling is normally from the bitten finger to the whole hand but can go to the elbow, or in severe cases go further up the bitten limb to the shoulder or even onto the trunk of the body. The neurotoxin affects cranial nerves and causes dilation of the pupil, droopy eye lids, loss of the ability to focus the eyes, loss of the senses of smell and taste, facial paralysis, and in bites to children can also lead to the paralysis of the diaphragm which could lead to death. No recent deaths recorded for bites from this snake.


This snake is found on mountain ranges from the Cape Fold Mountains into the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho, KZN, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo Provinces. It is also found in the higher escarpment areas of Swaziland, as well as the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe.


This snake prefers high laying areas on mountains.


This small adder is found in mountainous areas and is active during the day when it will come out of hiding to bask in the sun. It will hide under rocks or in small rodent burrows to escape the winter snows. It feeds on frogs, lizards and rodents. The female gives live birth to 4 and up to 15 young in late summer. The baby snakes are an exact replica of the parents and are about 10 cm in length at birth.