I got invited to join «ze Germans» for a short trip to Piemonte in the italian alps, to look for Vipera walser early may in 2018, and who could say no to trip like that ?
We drove from Frankfurt in Germany, and on the way back from Italy we decied to also look for Vipera aspis atra in the Swiss alps. This route also gave me the opportunity to see Marmots and Chamois!
Many thank to Michael, Alexander and Jürg for inviting me on this amazing trip. And also a great thanks to Dario for giving us the tip of a great valley to check out (even though the trip up there got spoiled by the weather)
They habitat and scenery in the Italian alps is amazing – and well worth a visit even without finding vipers!
What was very interesting with this trip, is that many of the species we find is the exact same as we have far up north in Norway, like the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), slow worm (Anguis fragilis) and viviparous lizard (Zootoca viviparus)
Smooth Snakes (Coronalla austriaca) from Piemonte, Italy
Viviparous lizard (Zootoca viviparus) Piemonte, Italy
Alexander Pieh out looking for reptiles in the late morning. Piemonte, Italy
When out looking for reptiles, one often also cross path with other animals and birds.
Here a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the slopes. Piemonte, Italy
But none of the above was the goal for this trip. We wanted to find the Walser viper (Vipera walser), that is a endemic species for this small region in Piemonte.
We walked many miles in search for it, up and down steep rock slides and slopes in the mountains.
Jürg Navrade on his way up to a location for V.walser..
..only to find a huge rain storm to start when we came to the spot..
But the good thing with that weather, is that we got to find a fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
But in the end, we got lucky – Jürg spotted a snake going in to hiding, and we came back a bit later and fortunatly Alexander was able to control it so that we was able to get a good look at this beatiful creature, a male Walser Viper.
In the Italian alps, in the region of Piemonte, one has always belived the was a population of the Europen Adder (Vipera berus). But some scientists startet to look into this, and soon found some small morphological differences. This led to a wider resarch, including collection of DNA-samples. And it shows that this is a new species of viper, and was described in 2016. One of the most exciting things with this, that DNA shows that they are more closely related to the caucasian vipers (such as V.kaznakovi) from the east, and not the «local» vipers as V.berus, V.aspis and V.ursinii. The Walser viper must be considers as a threatened species, as the area they live in can be as small as 500 square kilometeres, og due to the lack of grazing live stock in the alps one thinks that their habitat is shrinking slowly but surely.
After the success in Piemonte, on our way back to Germany we stopped in a beatiful valley in the swiss alps to look for V.aspis. And what a stop it was. We found several V.aspis, and also I got to see marmots and chamois. This is a place I will need to visit again in the future!!
The valley we visited in Switzerland.
There where many marmots (Marmota marmota) on the sides of the road and in the slopes in the valley
The first Asp Viper (Vipera aspis) we found was a beatiful melanistic female found by me, just when the sun finally peeked through the skies.
After this, Alexander and Jürg both found some large «normal» colored specimens some hundres meters from each other.
The team for the trip (from right), Alexander Pieh, Thor Håkonsen, Jürg Navrade and Michael Wilms