Home Europe Turkey Venomous Snakes In Turkey: 9 Species You Must Avoid

Venomous Snakes In Turkey: 9 Species You Must Avoid

A golden red snake passing over rocky terrain
Photo by Kristian Pikner from WikiCommons

Turkey is rife with dangerous animals across the diverse landscape. From the popular sun-drenched tourist beaches to the far reaches of the rocky mountain ranges, creatures lurk in the shadows possessing the means to kill, and some even a motive! So, what about venomous snakes in Turkey?

There are over 45 species of snakes in Turkey, but not all are deadly. Only 12 are considered venomous and should be avoided at all costs. The venom isn’t something you can just brush off lightly, serious pain and potential death is a threat.

Snakes in turkey should not be underestimated. There have been a number of snakebites in Turkey over recent years that have resulted in hospitalization. Some incidents have even resulted in death from venomous snakes in Turkey.

Want to know what to look out for? Here are the 9 most dangerous and venomous snakes in Turkey, you need to do your best to avoid them, as well as top tips on what you need to do if you are bitten by a snake.

Ottoman Viper

Ottoman Viper on a rock with a blurred background
Photo by Benny Trapp from WikiCommons
Latin NameMontivipera xanthina
Where To FindRural areas of Turkey, in a rocky and well-vegetated habitat
Key FeaturesLargest and most dangerous snake in Turkey
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Also known as the rock viper or coastal viper, the ottoman is the most dangerous and venomous snake in Turkey. Identified by a distinct black zig-zag pattern against a grey or white body, this Turkish snake species can grow up to 130 cm in length. Its habitat is in rocky and well-vegetated spaces, typically rural areas, in humid climates.

Ottoman vipers are extremely aggressive and have been known to attack humans unprovoked. The effects of the ottoman viper venom can be severe, causing long-term complications, extreme swelling, and potentially even death. If you encounter this snake in the wild, back away slowly and create as much space between you and the snake as possible.

In 2012, a British woman was bitten on the leg while on holiday with her family in Turkey. She received immediate medical attention and anti-venom to combat the poison from the Ottoman’s lethal venom. Months later, she was still unable to walk due to ongoing pain and difficulties from the attack.

This snake species can also be encountered throughout the northern region of Greece and some of the Greek Islands. It thrives in the sub-mediterranean climate, feeding on rodents and other reptiles.

Anatolian Meadow Viper

Venomous snakes in Turkey Anatolian meadow viper in grassland
Photo by Konstantinos Kalaentzis from WikiCommons
Latin NameVipera anatolica
Where To FindSouthwestern region of Turkey, around the Taurus Mountains
Key FeaturesOften mistaken for the Ottoman Viper, has a dark zig zag pattern
IUCN StatusCritically endangered

Turkey’s Anatolian meadow viper is one of the most critically endangered species in the world and is also super venomous. This snake is only found in the southwestern area of Turkey, around the Ciglikara mountain plateau in the Taurus Mountains. The population numbers are under continued pressure due to habitation loss, human activity, and climate change.

This snake was only discovered in 1969 and is one of the most elusive species known to man. At first glance, the Anatolian meadow viper could be mistaken for the closely related ottoman viper. Both have a similar dark zig-zag pattern along the length of the body; the Anatolian meadow viper has a flat-topped head with an arrowhead snout.

The venom is thought to be strong enough to cause serious side effects for humans, however, they tend to stick to a smaller mammal diet. Early research discovered this snake had over 90 different types of toxins in its venom. And with no specific anti-venom readily available, this makes the Anatolian meadow viper one of the most deadly snakes in Turkey.

European Adder

A European Adder coiled with head raised in grass
Photo by Thomas Brown from WikiCommons
Latin NameVipera berus
Where To FindWidespread across Turkey, often close to humans
Key FeaturesMost commonly encountered snake throughout Europe, part of many folklore tales
IUCN StatusLeast concern

The European adder is the common name for Vipera berus, a largely widespread venomous snake found throughout Turkey, across Western Europe, and parts of East Asia. This adder is the subject of much folklore in Britain and other European countries. It’s mostly considered not dangerous, however, if provoked this snake will bite and is venomous.

Encounters with these snakes are common due to the proximity of the habitat to human activity. A European adder bite can be life-threatening to some. Side effects include:

  • Mild to severe discomfort
  • Immediate and intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Tingling sensation
  • Necrosis and tissue damage

In rare cases, some people may develop anaphylaxis symptoms. These symptoms can include nausea, retching and vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, fever, breathing difficulties, and loss of consciousness. This is extremely serious and should be treated with immediate medical attention.

Wagner’s Viper

Montivipera wagneri snake on a rock under vegetation
Photo by TimVickers from WikiCommons
Latin NameMontivipera wagneri
Where To FindEastern Turkey and northwestern Iran
Key FeaturesGrey color with orange/yellow botches
IUCN StatusCritically endangered

Wagner’s viper is a critically endangered snake species native to eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran. The head is relatively large, distinct from the body, with a rounded snout. They are a greyish ground color with orange/yellowish blotches or spots that run from the back of the head to the tail.

The Wagner viper can be found in rocky and grassy areas, typically high in the remote mountains above the mesmerizing Lake Urmia, close to the Iranian border. Therefore, most tourists visiting the glistening Turkish coastline won’t ever encounter this snake. And with the cocktail of neurotoxins this snake has in its venom, that’s probably a good thing!

This snake was first discovered by the German explorer, Moritz Wagner, hence the name. A specimen was first identified in 1846. Since then population numbers have been hit hard by human activity, infrastructure works, and the illegal exotic pet demand.

Armenian Rock Viper

Photo by Harold van der Ploeg from WikiCommons
Latin NameMontivipera raddei
Where To FindRocky interior of Turkey
Key Features1 meter in length with distinct, black markings
IUCN StatusNear threatened

The Armenian rock viper is endemic to Turkey and surrounding countries. As the name suggests, this species lives in rocky habitats with plenty of woody vegetation. Encounters with the rock viper are likely to happen if you’re hiking and exploring the interior of Turkey.

Be warned, this is one of the most dangerous animals in Turkey. The fangs pack a venom strong enough to cause serious harm to unlucky human victims, leading to blood coagulation. Pair this with the excellent camouflaged coloring and you’ve got one of the most lethal venomous snakes in Turkey.

Adults can grow up to a meter in length and are often thought of as being fairly attractive snakes. The head is very typical of vipers with protruding eyes and stark black markings along the length of the body.

Horned Viper

Horned viper on sand with forked tongue scenting the air
Photo by Oronbb from WikiCommons
Latin NameCerastes cerastes
Where To FindDry, sandy areas below the Turkish mountains
Key FeaturesA horn over each ear, typically up to 1 meter long
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Turkey’s horned viper looks plain mean. This menacing snake is in fact one of the most dangerous animals in Europe, and one of the most venomous snakes in Turkey. So trust us when we say, you need to stay away from this one.

The danger comes from the large size of this snake. It can grow over 1 meter in length with 13mm fangs. Horned viper venomous bites may not result in death, but can still have serious consequences for the victim. The venom contains over 13 different variants of toxin causing some of the following complications:

  • Extreme pain
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling

Identifying a horned viper is straightforward. Colors and patterns range depending on the region, however, one thing remains the same: the horns. As the name depicts, these snakes have characteristic horns over each eye. The horned viper’s habitats are in dry, sandy areas with sparse rock outcroppings.

Black Cobra

A black cobra on a sandy desert floor
Photo by Harold van der Ploeg from WikiCommons
Latin NameWalterinnesia aegyptia
Where To FindAnatolia region to the north of Turkey
Key FeaturesBlack scales, sleek nose and head
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Black cobras, also known as black desert snakes, are common across the Middle East but can also be seen in the Turkish Anatolia region to the north. Sightings are albeit rare and elusive, and they like a hot climate. And of course, this is yet another poisonous snake found in Turkey.

The venom packed by black cobras is a powerful neurotoxin that causes severe swelling around the bite. They are believed to be more dangerous than the fabled Indian cobra. Yet, unlike other cobras, the black desert cobra prefers to take a stealthier attack – there are no raised heads or fanned-out collars here.

Black cobras are often mistaken for the whipsnake, another black serpent found in Turkey. However, this is a dangerous confusion to make. The whipsnake is not poisonous, whereas black cobras are. Luckily, due to the choice of habitat, tourist encounters with this species are incredibly low.

Caucasus Viper

Caucasus viper, dark green color, moving through branches
Photo by TimVickers from WikiCommons
Latin NameVipera kaznakovi
Where To FindBlack Sea coastline, 600-800 meters above sea level
Key FeaturesDark green scales, stout head
IUCN StatusEndangered

The Caucasus viper is another endangered species of snake in Turkey; the poisonous snake was added to the IUCN Red List in 1994. Named after the Russian naturalist, Aleksandr Nikolaevich Kaznakov, this species is endemic to Turkey, Georgia, and Russia. The snake is stoutly built and doesn’t exceed 70 cm in length.

Little research has been done on this specific type of viper. However, they have identified peptides and proteins from 15 toxin families within the Caucasus vipers venom. That is a good enough reason to give this snake plenty of space!

These snakes enjoy a damp habitat, living on forested slopes of mountains and the beds of wet ravines. Hibernation ends around March – April, it emerges on the Black Sea coastline some 600–800 meters above sea level. The likelihood of visitors to Turkey encountering the Caucasus viper is rare, but still, it’s good to know what’s out there.

Mount Bulgar Viper

Mount Bulgar viper coiled in dirt with distinct markings
Photo by TimVickers from WikiCommons
Latin NameMontivipera bulgardaghica
Where To FindBulgar Dagh (Bolkar Dagi) mountains, Nigde Province, or the south-central Anatolia region
Key FeaturesDark color with black blotches along the back
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Mount Bulgar vipers are only found in Turkey’s southern mountain ranges, with no other subspecies currently recognized. This is a protected animal, however, population numbers are not under any threat for now.

Again, this is a venomous snake species found in Turkey, and confrontation should be avoided at all costs. Although, despite the venom posing the classic threat, scientists are undergoing research into the benefits this specific species toxin could have against lung cancer cells in humans. Profiling and research into the Mount Bulgar viper’s venom could potentially lead to saving lives.

So, if you’re hiking through the Bulgar Dagh (Bolkar Dagi) mountains, Nigde Province, or the south-central Anatolia region in Turkey, keep an eye out for this majestic snake. Chances are you will spot one hiding in the undergrowth. They grow up to 80 cm in length and are dark in color, blending expertly into the environment.

What To Do If You’re Bitten By A Snake In Turkey

Photo by Benny Trapp from WikiCommons

At least 80,000 people die per year from snakebites. In fact, this figure is probably low as there are many more fatalities from snake attacks that are not accurately reported in developing countries.

So what can you do if you’re bitten by one of these venomous snakes in Turkey while on holiday? There are some clear and necessary steps required, regardless of the type of snake encountered, that could potentially save your life. Snakebite first aid is important to know if you plan to travel.

  • Avoid the use of ice packs, incision and suction of the bite area, alcohol or sedative drugs, pain killers (such as aspirin or ibuprofen)
  • Keep calm, remove any jewelry or tight clothing that could pose a threat if swelling occurs
  • Apply a bandage above the bite (depending on where the snakebite is on the body) to decrease the blood flow and circulation of the venom
  • Seek urgent medical care within 30 minutes. Hospitals will use venom pump extractors and appropriate pain relief, along with the correct anti-venom dosage

What is the most dangerous snake in Turkey?

The most dangerous snake in Turkey is the ottoman viper. The venom this snake possesses is capable of causing severe complications that can be prolonged, and potentially even resulting in death. Due to the chance of encounter as well, this snake is often considered one of the most dangerous animals in Turkey.

What is the biggest snake in Turkey?

The ottoman viper is not only the most dangerous snake in Turkey but also the largest snake species. Some individuals can grow up to 4 feet in length, that’s twice as big as other snake averages. These large snakes are aggressive and can attack unprovoked.

Are snakes common in Turkey?

Snakes are common across the whole of Turkey. Most species can be found in the mountainous regions, away from tourist hotspots, but some can be found close to the Meditteranean coastline. There are over 45 different varieties in the country, however, only a select few are known to be venomous snakes in Turkey.