Spatial Ecology of Armenian Vipers, Montivipera raddei, in Two Different Landscapes: Human-Modified vs. Recovered-Natural

Jeffery A. Ettling, Levon A. Aghasyan, Aram L. Aghasyan, Patricia G. Parker


Armenian Vipers, Montivipera raddei, have a range that includes Armenia and portions of eastern Turkey, western Azerbaijan, and northwestern Iran. They have a fragmented and restricted distribution that has been severely impacted by human activities, namely habitat alteration/degradation and over-collection for the pet trade, over the past 40 years. We used radiotelemetry to study and compare the spatial ecology of Armenian Vipers inhabiting a human-modified landscape near Abovian in Koytak Province and a recovered-natural landscape in Shikahogh State Reserve in Syunik Province. Radio-tracking at Abovian took place during 2008 – 2009 (8 males, 6 females) and during 2010 – 2012 at Shikahogh State Reserve (7 males, 4 females). Prey surveys were conducted at both sites to evaluate the abundance of small mammals. We found significant differences between the two populations in terms of home range size and mean movements. Home range and movements were significantly larger in the human-modified landscape. We found no difference in body condition between the two landscapes or a correlation between body condition and home range size. Prey abundance was significantly higher in the recovered-natural landscape. While the conservation of intact natural habitat should be given the highest priority, management strategies in agricultural landscapes should include both the inclusion of corridors to allow for movement between parcels of habitat and the maintenance of high quality habitat within these landscapes to provide cover and food for both small mammals and vipers.


Montivipera raddei; spatial ecology; radiotelemetry; prey abundance; body condition; landscapes

Full Text:



Adamian M. S. and Klem D., Jr. (1997), A Field Guide to the Birds of Armenia, American University of Armenia, Oakland, CA.

Aghasyan A. and Kalashyan M. (eds). (2010), The Red Book of Animals of the Republic of Armenia, Zangak Press, Yerevan, Armenia.

Aivazyan H. M. (2006), Nature of Armenia. Ser. «Family Encyclopedia». Book 3, Haikakan Hanragitaran, Yerevan, Armenia.

Anderson C. S., Cady A. B., and Meikle D. B. (2003), «Effects of vegetation structure and edge habitat on the density and distribution of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) in small and large forest patches», Can. J. Zool., 81, 897 – 904.

Ascensão F., Clevenger A. P., Grilo C., Filipe J., and Santos-Reis M. (2012), «Highway verges as habitat providers for small mammals in agrosilvopastoral environments», Biodivers. Conserv., 21, 3681 – 3697.

Beyer H. (2006), Hawth’s analysis tools for ArcGIS.www.

Blouin-Demers G. and Weatherhead P. J. (2001), «Habitat use by black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) in fragmented forests», Ecology, 82, 2882 – 2896.

Blouin-Demers G., Weatherhead P. J., and McCracken H. A. (2003), «A test of the thermal coadaptation hypothesis with black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta) and northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon)», J. Therm. Biol., 28, 331 – 340.

Bolnick D. I., Svanbäck R., Fordyce J. A., Yang L. H., Davis J. M., Hulsey C. D., and Forister M. L. (2003), «The ecology of individuals: incidence and implications of individual specialization», Am. Naturalist, 161, 1 – 28.

Darevsky I. S. (1966), «Ecology of rock-viper (Vipera xanthina raddei Boettger) in the natural surroundings of Armenia», Mem. Inst. Butantan Simp. Int., 33, 81 – 83.

Degregorio B. A., Manning J. V., Bieser N., and Kingsbury B. A. (2011), «The spatial ecology of the eastern massasauga (Sistrurus c. catenatus) in northern Michigan», Herpetologica, 67(1), 71 – 79.

Durbian F. E., King R. S., Crabill T., Lambert-Doherty H., and Seigel R. A. (2008), «Massasauga home range patterns in the Midwest», J. Wildl. Manag., 72(3), 754 – 759.

Durner G. M. and Gates J. E. (1993), «Spatial ecology of black rat snakes on Remington Farms, Maryland», J. Wildl. Manag., 57(4), 812 – 826.

Ettling J. A., Aghasyan L. A., Aghasyan A. L., and Parker P. G. (2013), «Spatial ecology of Armenian vipers, Montivipera raddei, in a human-modified landscape», Copeia, 2013, 64 – 71.

Fischer C., Thies C., and Tscharntke T. (2011), «Small mammals in agricultural landscapes: Opposing responses to farming practices and landscape complexity», Biol. Conserv., 144, 1130 – 1136.

Fitch H. S. (1987), «Collecting and life-history techniques», in: R. A. Seigel, J. T. Collins, and S. S. Novak (eds.), Snakes: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Macmillan, New York, pp. 143 – 181.

Flardh B. (1983), «Herpetofaunan pa Mount Ararat», Snoken, 13, 31 – 38.

Gregory P. T. (1984), «Communal denning in snakes», in: R. A. Seigel, L. E. Hunt, J. L. Knight, L. Malaret, and N. L. Zushlag (eds.), Vertebrate Ecology and Systematics: A Tribute to Henry S. Fitch, Univ. Kans. Mus. Nat. Hist. Spec. Publ., Lawrence, Kansas, pp. 57 – 75.

Gregory P. T., Macartney J. M., and Larsen K. W. (1987), «Spatial patterns and Movements», in: R. A. Seigel, J. T. Collins, and S. S. Novak (eds.), Snakes: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Macmillan, New York, pp. 366 – 395.

Harestad A. S. and Bunnel F. L. (1979), «Home range and bodyweight: A re-evaluation», Ecology, 60, 389 – 402.

Johnson G. (2000), «Spatial ecology of the eastern massasauga (Sistrurus c. catenatus) in a New York peatland», J. Herpetol., 34, 186 – 192.

Laidlaw R. A., Smart J., Smart M. A., and Gill J. A. (2012), «Managing a food web: impacts on small mammals of managing grasslands for breeding waders», Anim. Conserv., 2012, 1 – 9.

Macartney J. M., Gregory P. T., and Larsen K. W. (1988), «A tabular study of data on movements and home ranges of snakes», J. Herpetol., 22, 61 – 73.

Madsen T. (1984), «Movements, home range size and habitat use of radio-tracked Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) in southern Sweden», Copeia, 1984, 707 – 713.

Madsen T. and Shine R. (1996), «Seasonal migration of predators and prey — a study of pythons and rats in tropical Australia», Ecology, 77, 149 – 156.

Mallow D., Ludwig D., and Nilson G. (2003), True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers, Krieger Publ. Co., Malabar, Florida.

Marshall J. C., Manning J. V., and Kingsbury B. A. (2006), «Movement and macrohabitat selection of the eastern massasauga in a fen habitat», Herpetologica, 62(2), 141 – 150.

Nilson G. and Andrén C. (1986), «The mountain vipers of the Middle East — the Vipera xanthina complex (Reptilia: Viperidae)», Bonn. Zool. Monogr., 20, 1 – 90.

Nilson G., Tuniyev B. S., Andrén C., and Orlov N. (1999), «Vipers of the Caucasus: taxonomic considerations», Kaupia, 8, 103 – 106.

Nilson G., Andrén C., Avci A., and Akarsu F. (2008), Montivipera raddei. In IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4, (last accessed on May 11, 2011).

Pearson D., Shine R., and Williams A. (2005), «Spatial ecology of a threatened python (Morelia spilota imbricate) and the effects of anthropogenic habitat change», Austral Ecol., 30, 261 – 274.

Pringle R. M., Webb J. K., and Shine R. (2003), «Canopy structure, microclimate, and habitat selection by a nocturnal snake, Hoplocephalus bungaroides», Ecology, 84, 2668 – 2679.

Rajabizadeh M., Nilson G., and Kami H. G. (2011), «A new species of mountain viper (Ophidia: Viperidae) from the Central Zagros Mountains, Iran», Russ. J. Herpetol., 18(3), 235 – 240.

Reinert H. K. and Cundall D. (1982), «An improved surgical implantation method for radio-tracking snakes», Copeia, 1982, 702 – 705.

Roe J. H., Kingsbury B. A., and Herbert N. R. (2004), «Comparative water snake ecology: Conservation of mobile animals that use temporally dynamic resources», Biol. Conserv., 118, 79 – 89.

Roth T. C. and Greene B. D. (2006), «Movement patterns and home range use of the northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)», Copeia, 2006, 544 – 551.

Row J. R. and Blouin-Demers G. (2006a), «Thermal quality influences habitat selection at multiple spatial scales in milksnakes», Ecoscience, 13, 443 – 450.

Row J. R. and Blouin-Demers G. (2006b), «Kernels are not accurate estimators of home-range size for herpetofauna», Copeia, 2006, 797 – 802.

Shine R. (1987), «Intraspecific variation in thermoregulation, movements and habitat use by Australian blacksnakes, Pseudechis porphyriacus», J. Herpetol., 21, 165 – 177.

Smit R., Bokdam J., den Ouden J., Olff H,, Schot-Opschoor H., and Schrijvers M. (2001), «Effects of introduction and exclusion of large herbivores on small rodent Communities», Plant Ecol., 155, 119 – 127.

Sochurek E. (1984), «Die giftschlangen der Turkei — eine Ubersicht Elaphe», Aquarium-Terrarium Beiträge, 8(1), 1.

Steele S. J., Gower S. T., Vogel J. G., and Norman J. M. (1997), «Root mass, net primary productivity, and turnover in aspen, jack pine, and black spruce forests in Saskatchewan and in Manitoba, Canada», Tree Physiol., 17, 577 – 587.

Stickel W. H. and Cope J. B. (1947), «The home range and wanderings of snakes», Copeia, 1947, 127 – 135.

Torre I., Diaz M., Martinez-Padilla J., Bonal R., Vinuela J., and Fargallo J. A. (2007), «Cattle grazing, raptor abundance and small mammal communities in Mediterranean Grasslands», Basic Appl. Ecol., 8, 565 – 575.

Weatherhead P. J. and Madsen T. (2009), «Linking behavioral ecology to conservation Objectives», in: S. J. Mullin and R. A. Seigel (eds.), Snakes: Ecology and Conservation, Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York, pp. 149 – 171.

Whitaker P. B. and Shine R. (2002), «Thermal biology and activity patterns of the eastern brownsnake (Psedonaja textilis): A radiotelemetric study», Herpetologica, 58, 436 – 452.

Wilgers D. J. and Horne E. A. (2007), «Spatial variation in predation attempts on artificial snakes in a fire-disturbed tallgrass prairie», Southwest. Nat., 52, 263 – 270.

Wisler C., Hofer U., and Arlettaz R. (2008), «Snakes and monocultures: Habitat selection and movements of female grass snakes (Natrix natrix L) in an agricultural landscape», J. Herpetol., 42, 337 – 346.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

You can subscribe to the print or electronic version of the journal on the site of EastView Company. If you have any questions, please write to the email