photos -- taxonomy -- evolution -- morphology -- distribution -- biotopes and way of life -- biology -- ecology -- protection

Vipera kaznakovi Nikolsky, 1909 - Kaznakov's viper, caucasian viper.
Vipera renardi - Silantiev, 1903, 30: 37 (part).
Vipera kaznakovi - Nikolsky, 1909. Terra typica: Tsebelda, Sukhumi, Abkhasia.
Vipera kaznakovi - Nikolsky, 1910: 81; Nikolsky, 1913: 179; Klemmer, 1963: 380; Borkin, Darevsky, 1987:141; Ananieva, 1998: 545; Dunaev,Orlova, 2003: 317.
Coluber kaznakowi - Nikolsky, 1916: 244 - 247.
Vipera kaznakowi - Terentiev, Chernov, 1949: 270; Bannikov, 1977:323; Vedmederia, 1986: 55; Orlov,Tuniev, 1986: 117.
Vipera kaznakowi kaznakoi - Vedmederia, 1984: 8.

    The maximal length of a body of males reaches 475 mm, females - 600 mm, length of a tail 7-8 cm, the head is very wide, pressed from above, is precise divided from a neck. The tip of a nasal part of the head is rounded. The nasal aperture is cut in the bottom part of the nasal scale. Intermaxillar scale are connected to two apical(up to 80 % of individuals). Unlike other species of vipers of this complex, red and orange tones prevail in colouration. Quite often there are individuals of complete black colour, but in comparison with melanistic Vipera dinniki, there are elements of yellow or red colours on upper and lower lip scales and subcaudal scales are kept. There are wide, zigzag-looking strip of black or dark-brown color on the upper side of the body. This black back strip can look like zigzag or have characters of a straight wide black line. The black upper part of the head of adult individuals merges with the back strip. But of juvenile individuals it can be separated from the back strip by the light interval disappearing with the years.
Very often dark spots on sides of a body also merge in a continuous strip. The upper side of the head is black, a belly is black without spots. Males differ from females with the smaller sizes of a body and smaller number of belly ring scales, more harmonious gabitus, rather longer tail and, accordingly, greater number of subcaudal scales (31 - 37 against 22 - 30 at females). Young individuals have bright red-brown colouration, back strip and patterns are similar to adults and reaches its maximal intensity after the first wintering.

    The Caucasian viper is widespread on the south-west slopes of the Big Caucasus Ridge from pass Mihajlovski through Abkhazia, the western Georgia, Adjaria down to village Hopa in the north of Turkey. On the Big Caucasus northern slope widespread from a village Ubinskaja in the West, up to Maikop in the north and Urushten river in the east. The whole area of the Caucasian viper is presented by two fragments: the northern-kolkhidian (the western Georgia, Abkhazia and Krasnodar territory, Russia) and adjaria-lasistanian - Adjaria and Turkey. A monotypical specie.
Data on caucasian viper range in foothills of Karachaevo-Circassia requires acknowledgement because the most of information on distribution of the caucasian viper in Stavropol Territory concern to Vipera dinniki.

Way of life:
    The Caucasian viper - the wood species which occupies foothills and mountain light woods up to height of 600-800 m (up to 1000 m) above sea level: a zone of subtropical woods with an evergreen underbrush, light chestnut and beechen woods. In the river valleys rises up to border of the fir woods, but does not get deep inside. Lives in the transformed landscapes: gardens, tea plantations, vineyards. The most typical biotopes are presented by small glades and other clarified sites of woods with eastern and southern exposition, located near to sources of water, heaps of stones and rocky outputs. In the basic places of dwelling the viper is rare, population density makes 0,3-0,5 individuals/hectares. Local concentrations with population density more than 4 individuals/hectares are observed.

    The active period is from the end of March till November. In mountain area vipers finish wintering later, than at the Black Sea coast when the air temperature above the ground surface reaches + 13 – 16 C. Begins wintering in mountain part of the area earlier. Activity in a day time, with two well expressed maximums.
Viviparous spesie. Mating period lasts from the end of March - April up to the middle of May. 3-5 (up to 8) young snakes (average length of a body is 17 sm and average weight is 9,1 g) born in August - September. Sexual maturity reaches on the third year of a life at length of a body 350 - 400 mm. Females give birth every year, after that vipers activity proceeds 1.5-2.5 months.
The diet of the Caucasian viper is rather various and includes rodents (Murinae, Soricidae) lizards and birds. Juvenile viper individuals feed on juvenile lizards and insects (Orthoptera). Venom contains hemolitic toxins. It is potentially dangerous to animals and humans.

Density of population:
    In the territory of Russia caucasian viper is rare everywhere. Up to last years in rather safe condition there were 2-3 micropopulations in vicinities of Sochi where totally from 3 up to 15 individuals a day were observed. In the Caucasian Reserve keeps stable density in Achipse river gorge where 3-5 individuals a day were found totally. Up to 1990 quantity in Russia is not less than 10 thousand individuals, now it is reduced for three times. Principal cause of falling in number - urbanisation of foothills of the Black Sea coast of Russia, annual tearing away a territory of dwelling of the spesies from the Sochi state natural national park.

    Vipera kaznakovi is included in ICNP-96 list. It is protected in the territory of the Caucasian Reserve where this spesies has maximal density of population of its distribution and is presented by some micropopulations insufficient for conservation of the species, the Sochi State Natural National Park and some other conservating territories (Psebay, Goriatchiy Kliutch, Dakhovsky, Golovinsky).
Reorganisation of the Sochi National Park is necessary for conservation of the species in the territory of Russia with connection to the Caucasian State Biospheric Reserve of especially valuable places in vicinities of Sochi, and giving a special conservation status to Papaj mountain group.

Vipera kaznakovi is a relic viper of the western Caucasus.
In the most territory of its area caucasian viper has completely disappeared, for that reason it is included in the Red book of the Russian Federation. Species is reduced in number in many peripheries of the area.


CB V.kaznakovi

Vipera darevskii 

Vipera dinniki

Vipera magnifica

Vipera orlovi

CB V.kaznakovi



- the Malaja Laba river gorge, the Achishkho mount


Vipera kaznakovi  - Kaznakov's viper, caucasian viper.