Species in severe decline in many parts of France due to habitat loss and persecution.
Although diurnal much of its activity is in the evenings, particularly in very hot weather. Calm and cautious, its first response when disturbed is to flee for cover, in fact it is nowhere near as aggressive as most of the Couleuvres. Its venom fangs are retracted except at the moment of biting. Many first defensive bites are "dry" with little or no venom being injected. Hibernation takes place from October until March.
The vipère Aspic is a small snake, the majority tend to be only 20 to 30cm, although they can be much longer, possibly 75 cm, recognisable by its triangular, flattened head which is quite distinct from its body. Its body although short is quite thick and its back colouration can be light grey, brown and various shades of orange with a darker marks which form a zig-zag pattern, irregular and often fragmented. There is a darker line or band which runs backwards from each of the eyes which have vertical slit pupils. Scales on both the top and side of the head are small. Easily confused with the Viperine snake at first glance, especially in regions where they share the same colouration.
Photos of snake bites in France.
Left - Human leg. Right - Infection following bite and necrosis.
(1) Animals that retain the eggs within the body of the female in a brood chamber in which the development of the embryo takes place, perhaps deriving some nourishment from the female, but without the strong umbilical attachment to a placenta as in mammals; the typical condition of so-called "live-bearing" fishes. Also called aplacental viviparous. The young hatch inside the mother's uterus from their thin egg capsule, and are usually born shortly afterwards.
Coupling takes place in May accompanied by ritual confrontations between males. This species is ovoviviparous(1) and the female produces anything from 2 to 12 young in a protective membrane, they break out in a matter of a few minutes using forceful movements of their heads. The first moult or skin shedding (sloughing) takes place almost immediately and they are already capable of injecting small quantities of venom and killing their own prey.
The Asp viper can be found in all regions of France except the extreme north and north east. With a preference for dry habitats, sunny slopes, stone walls, hedgerows and similar habitats it can be observed almost anywhere. It will often live in old holes in the ground made previously by voles, mice etc. Hunting takes place mainly in the evenings and part of the night, prey is mainly small mammals which it seeks out in their holes, killing them in a matter of moments with its venom before eating them head first, larger prey is often released after having been bitten, and is then tracked down by scent as the victim weakens. It never eats fish or amphibians but can still be found near water.