Armenian steppe viper -Vipera (Pelias) eriwanensis (Reuss, 1933)

Vipers and Pitvipers — Viperidae

Status. An endemic of the Armenian Highland. Listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 3.1) as Vulnerable VU B1ab(iii,v). According to IUCN criteria categorized as Vulnerable VU B1ab(iii,v).

Distribution. Distributed in the mountains of the eastern part of the South Caucasus and the adjacent areas of Turkey and Iran.

Distribution in Armenia. Occurs in the country’s north–western, central and southern areas, mainly in grassland landscapes and highland meadows at 1200–3000 m above sea level.

Habitats. In Armenia inhabits stony arid grasslands and alpine meadows. Also occurs in montane sparse forests, rocky agglomerations on slopes and xerophilic vegetation like milk vetch. Sometimes can be found also on cultivated lands, underneath the stones. Uses rodent burrows, hollow spaces between stones, scrub roots, rock crevices and ground cracks as shelters.

Biological traits. Active from mid–April to mid–October. Feeds on invertebrates and lizards. Mating occurs in April–May, depending on habitat elevations and time of hibernation end. Ovoviviparous. The offspring are born from late July to mid–September. The gestation period is 90–130 days.

Population size and its trends. The population size is not big, but in foothill habitats or between stones they can concentrate at the density as high as 6–8 individuals/ha. Generally, the population is stable due to its distribution on higher elevations.

Major threats. Sheep and goat grazing in grasslands and meadows.

Conservation measures. Protected in Khosrov Forest Reserve’s small areas of mountain meadows. It is essential to grant protection to small isolated populations in Northern Armenia, set them aside as sanctuaries and to enlarge the size of Khosrov Forest Reserve.

© L. Aghasyan

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Darevsky, 1957; Bannikov et al., 1977; Aghasyan, 1987, 1996, 2009; Ananeva et al., 2004; Tuniev et al., 2009

Compiler. L. Aghasyan