An excitable dwarf adder from South Africa

Common Name: Berg adder

Scientific Name: Bitis atropos

Family: Viperidae

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Distribution: Southern Africa

Max Size: Approximately 50 cm (20 in)

Diet: Lizards, frogs, small mammals, birds.

Reproduction: Viviparous

Venom: Neuro/cytotoxic compound

Berg Adder

The berg adder, Bitis atropos,  is often mistaken  for its larger cousin the  puff adder.

However it is considerably smaller;  it lacks chevron markings and is generally restricted to mountainous regions  although it can be found at sea level in areas where mountains arise  suddenly such as on the Cape coast.

The  berg adder is a full-blooded and somewhat nervous snake.  When encountered it hisses loudly and strikes readily and rapidly if cornered but prefers to retreat into the safety of nearby vegetation cover.

Bites rarely result and when they do they are seldom fatal. The berg adder’s venom has both cytotoxic and neurotoxic properties and may cause localised pain, increased heart rate and loss of balance.

A bite from a berg adder is serious and one should treat it as such by getting to a hospital for the appropriate symptomatic treatment.


  • Rodents, lizards and frogs


  • Viviparous giving birth to 4 to 15 young in autumn (March/ April)

Key ID points:

  • Relatively small. Average of 40 cm; maximum 60 cm
  • Keeled scales
  • Triangular head, distinct from body
  • Hisses loudly
  • Strikes readily
  • Lacks chevron markings seen in puff adders

Conservation Status: Least Concern


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