Puff Adder

The puff adder is a venomous snake primarily found in Africa. They are fatal to humans, and their bite can cause death within 25 hours. Because of their wide distribution, aggressive nature, and proximity to humans, they cause more deaths in Africa than any other snake.

Scientific Classifications

  • Suborder:Serpentes
  • Family:Viperidae
  • Genus:Bitis
  • Species:B. arietans

Conservation Status

Not EvaluatedNE

Not Evaluated

Data DeficientDD

Data Deficient

Least ConcernLC

Least Concern

Near ThreatenedNT

Near Threatened





Critically EndangeredCR

Critically Endangered

Extinct in the wildEW

Extinct in the wild



Subspecies and Morphs

Puff adders have two subspecies:

  • African puff adder (Bitis arietans arietans)
  • Somali puff adder (Bitis arietans somalica)


Puff Adder Snake


The total length of this snake is between 39 – 75 inches (100 – 190 cm). Usually, males are longer than females. The weight of this snake is around 6 kg (13.2 lbs)

Color and Appearance:

The body color of the puff adder varies geographically. It can be light brown, straw yellow, orange, or reddish brown. Their body is covered with a pattern of 18 -22 dark brown to black bands that are backwardly directed.

Images of Puff Adder

There are two prominent dark bands on its head, one on the crown and another between the eyes. The rest of its head is yellowish-white with scattered dark blotches.

The shape of the bands varies as per their location. In some areas, it is chevron-shaped, whereas, in others, it is U-shaped. Some individuals are heavily flecked with brown and black, overshadowing other colors. This gives the snake a blackish or dusty-brown appearance.

Are They Dangerous to Humans 

Puff Adder Fangs

Puff adders are venomous and fatal to humans. They are responsible for the most deaths due to snakebites in Africa. They can yield venom of 150 – 350 mg. Just 100 mg of poison is sufficient to kill an adult human being. Their median lethal dose in mice is 0.4–2.0 mg/kg intravenously, 0.9–3.7 mg/kg peritoneally, and 4.4–7.7 mg/kg subcutaneously. The bite victim’s death occurs after 25 hours.

Puff Adder at a Glance

Puff Adder Range


These snakes are found in sub-Saharan Africa south of Cape of Good Hope. They also live in southwestern Saudi Arabia and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula. It is reported that a few of them also reside in the Dhofar region of southern Oman.

Puff Adder Habitat


Puff adders can live in any habitat except rainforests, alpine (tropical) habitats, and true deserts. Their preferred habitats are savannahs and rocky grasslands.


They live for 13 to 16 years in captivity. Their lifespan is shorter in the wild due to predation and food deficiency.

Pictures of a Puff Adder


The potential predators of puff adders are eagles, warthogs, cobras, hornbills, and honey badgers.


These snakes are carnivores. They feed on mammals, amphibians, birds, lizards, and tortoises. The young ones eat insects, small rodents and frogs.


Juvenile Puff Adder

Puff adders are promiscuous, with both males and females having multiple partners.  They reach reproductive maturity at the age of 4 years. Their mating period is between October and December, during which females make a pheromone to attract males.

The gestation period is 136 – 159 days. These snakes are viviparous. They can give birth to a litter of 50 – 60 hatchlings. The mother is not required to take care of the newborns. They become independent to take care of themselves after birth. 

Similar Species

Red Adder

This viper is a venomous species in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.

Horned Adder

This venomous snake has a large horn-like scale over each eye. It lives in the arid regions of Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Care Sheet

Size of Enclosure: These snakes do not need large enclosures. The size of their enclosure depends on their length. The small ones around 2.6 feet require a 3.2 x 1.6 x 1.6 feet terrarium, the ones of length 3.9 – 4.2 feet require a terrarium of 4.2 x 3.2 x 1.6 feet, and the larger ones who are 5 feet long need at least 5 x 3.2 x 1.5 feet terrarium.

Bitis arietans

Substrate: Puff adders need a substrate of 0.15 – 0.3 feet in depth. Beach wood chippings or peat can be used as substrate. The substrate should be kept dry at all times.

Humidity: The room where the snake is kept should maintain a humidity level of 50 – 65%. During the final stage of the shedding cycle, the room should be sprayed every other day without making the substrate wet.

Temperature: The temperature at which puff adders are kept depends upon the region from which they are coming. Snakes born in the equatorial region prefer an ambient temperature of 28⁰C during the day and 20 – 22⁰C at night. Those from northern and southern zones should be kept at a lower ambient temperature of 23⁰C during the day for 2-3 months (winter period) and 15 – 16⁰ C at night.

Lighting: The lighting also depends on the region they belong to. Equatorial specimens should be kept at 12/12 hours lighting schedule throughout the year. In contrast, northern and southern snakes require 14/10 hours of light/dark in summer and vice versa in winter.

Diet/Feeding: These snakes are easy to feed. They eat live pinky mice. One should never overfeed them.



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