I began this page because there seems to be very little information on the web regarding the Puff Adder. Of all the venomous snakes that I keep and have kept over the years they are my favorite. They are very dangerous snakes and I do not wish to encourage anyone to attempt to keep them. You should have plenty of experience with non-venomous species, preferably agressive specimens, and the proper training before obtaining a venomous snake. I plan to include a case history of a fatal envenomation of an experienced keeper by the Puff Adder, not to villanize and give these beautiful snakes a worse name than they already have, but to demonstrate the seriousness of keeping these or any other venomous snake. I have lots of training and experience with venomous snakes and I have never been bitten. Do your homework before you undertake the practice of venomous snake keeping. It is a very large responsibility that could cost you your life.Click here to see the result of a Timber Rattlesnake envenomation, a snake which has a much less toxic venom than the Puff Adder.
My first thought was to include information on the larger Bitis Vipers only, but finally decided to give them special attention but to make it a site dedicated to all venomous snakes. So this should be a fairly hefty site when I am finished. I plan to add things daily so check back often. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE PUFF ADDER(Bitis Arietans)
Two different races of the Puff Adder are recognized: The typical Puff Adder (Bitis Arietans) & the Somali Puff Adder (Bitis Arietans Somalica.) The Somali Puff Adder differs from the typical race in having keeled subcaudals. The Puff Adder gets its name from its habit of inflating its body and emitting a deep, low warning hiss to warn intruders to stay away.
The Puff Adder is one of the three giant vipers of Africa, the other two are the Gaboon Viper(Bitis Gabonica) & the Rhinoceros Viper(Bitis Nasicornis.) The Puff Adder is second largest after the Gaboon Viper which can reach lengths of nearly seven ft. and is the heaviest viper in the world. The Puff Adder can attain a very large size and I have had in my possession a specimen that was nearly five ft. in length and approximately as big around as a football, a very impressive snake! It died about a month after I purchased it, probably from liver damage due to over feeding by its previous owner. It was much too large for hooks to be of any use. These snakes feed voraciously and care must be taken not to over feed them.
The Puff Adder is a very slow moving, lethargic snake that doesn't move around very much, but it is capable of short bursts of speed when attempting to escape. Regardless of its normal sluggishness, the Puff Adder is one of the fastest striking snakes in the world. My male puffs usually become a little more active in the mating season, crawling around and checking things out and after mating usually settle down once more. If they do not mate this roaming may persist for a month or so before they settle down. The males have a considerable sex drive and it has been observed in the wild engaged in ritualized combat with Black Mambas (Dendroaspis Polylepis), an entirely different species of snake! In my personal opinion, The Puff Adder is more dangerous at this time than at others, as mine have all seemed to be more irritable and willing to strike during this period.
VENOM & BITES
The Puff adder has a very well developed solenoglyphous venom delivery system. The venom is injected through its large hollow fangs like hypodermic needles and it sometimes holds on to its victim. The approximate lethal dose of venom for humans is 100mg. and from 100-350mg. may be injected in a single bite. The symptoms of Puff Adder envenomation may include: intense pain, massive swelling, abdominal cramping, high fever, the victim may go in and out of shock, breathing may become increasingly difficult, there is usually extensive subcutaneous bruising and blood blisters form rapidly. Death from Puff Adder bite usually occurs two-four days after envenomation, most often from complications arising from blood volume deficit and the development of a disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. Death has occured in under thirty-minutes from intravenous injection of venom resulting in catastrophic circulatory collapse. Death sometimes occurs from anaphylactic shock or organ failure due to the extensive swelling.
Most bites to humans occur because the Puff Adder is common near human habitation, it frequently basks on or near foot paths and when approached it will remain motionless relying on its camoflage to avoid detection, this is particularly true at dusk when it is most active. It usually doesn't strike unless touched or stepped on, but if it is, it often strikes with great force and astonishing speed. The puff Adder is the leading cause of snakebite death in africa. It only strikes in self-defense and would much rather escape or be left alone than bite a human. If it realizes that it has been discovered it will assume a striking possition with its head down, its nose pointed toward the ground, inflates its body and emits a deep hiss to warn you to stay away. If approached too closely or further molested it will not hesitate to strike. If its warnings are headed it will begin to slowly back away, hissing and finally turn and move off.