Sssensational Facts: When Do Snakes Hibernate? For How Long? | Kidadl


Sssensational Facts: When Do Snakes Hibernate? For How Long?

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Do you know where snakes go in the cold weather?

In winter weather, it is rare to find a snake out in the open, alive. It usually brumates in the cold temperature.

Snakes are long, limbless, carnivorous reptiles belonging to the class Reptilia and the genus of serpents. A snake can also be considered a legless lizard. There exist almost 20 families of snakes currently, compromising 520 genera and including 3900 different species. Several species of snakes are found all over the world, except Antarctica and some small-sized islands of New Zealand, the Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. Most snakes are non-venomous and they swallow their prey. Some are venomous by nature and their bite can be injurious or fatal to humans. Although snakes do not possess limbs, their movement is not affected due to that. They slither on the ground, in a wave motion, and move silently. They are strictly carnivores and feed on small animals like lizards, frogs, small birds, snails, worms, and insects. Some snakes do not have the teeth set to bite or tear their food, instead, they swallow it as a whole. Chemicals inside their body help them to digest it later. Although, it is not advisable, in some places selected snake species are kept as pets, such as ball pythons and corn snakes. The owner should have all knowledge about how to take care of snakes or else they may be dangerous.

Snakes can't tolerate average cold temperatures while being in an active state, and they enter a time interval of brumation. They do not actually go in a dormant state and spend the winter sleeping, but rather keep themselves awake but remain inactive. During the cold weather, the snakes look for shelter to keep themselves protected from the temperatures. In winter, freezing cold temperatures will kill snakes. They make shelters by burrowing in holes or dens, under large rocks, in tree stumps, by making their way into basements, and hiding behind unused items, garages, barns, sheds, among piles of woods, and even inside car engines. Snakes have the ability to crawl silently and are experts at hiding. Their presence often goes unnoticed until they are disturbed. If disturbed, the snake may become violent and attack the intruder for its self-defense and the intruder can get bitten.

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about why do snakes shed and why do snakes eat themselves here on Kidadl!


At what temperature do snakes hibernate?

Snakes are cold-blooded animals and are ectotherms, meaning their internal body temperatures do not remain constant. Their body temperature depends on their surrounding environmental temperature. They adapt to different environments depending on the season to maintain their body temperature.

Snakes are mostly active during the day when the sun is out and the temperature is warm. They go to their dens by evening and at night are sleeping. They prey on the small-sized animals or insects near them, when the sun is warming the earth. During the winter season, when the temperature drops rapidly due to cold climates, the snakes naturally take shelter in underground dens, piles of rocks, mammal burrows to keep their bodies warm.

There is a debate about whether the snake hibernates or brumates. Hibernation and brumation are quite similar. In this period, the snake species become less active and the body metabolism process slows down. Hibernation and brumation can be differentiated by the animals' oxygen requirements. During hibernation, mammals have the ability to slow down their respiration rates. Snakes have the ability to control their oxygen fluctuations more than mammals. While brumating animals will go for deep sleep during their entire non-active period, but snakes do not do that. They rather rest in underground dens, conserving energy and keep their body warmer by curling up the body like rattlesnakes. During hibernation, snakes survive by the chemical reactions in their muscles under the skin. This reaction speed alters with the change in temperature. At warm temperatures, the metabolism rate is slow, and in cold conditions the rate increases. During warmer conditions at 95 F (35 C), the snake can be over-heated, while at colder conditions, 60 F (15.6 C), the snake becomes sluggish and lazy.

How long do snakes hibernate?

During the brumation period, a snake does not completely cut itself from the world.

Snakes, unlike other reptiles, do not enter the state of hibernation, but rather hide inside their den and become less active to survive the colder months. Their movements are limited, as they conserve their energy. Snakes brumate most of the time in the year. The brumation begins anytime from September to December and lasts up to March or April. During the warm temperatures, in the spring and summer season, the snake leaves its den and comes out on the wild ground, in search of food and water. During the cold temperatures, in the autumn and winter season, the snake only leaves its den on a sunlit day. The snake may have some kind of bacterial infection on its body due to inappropriate temperature in its hiding, so it's forced to come out and bask to keep its temperature balanced and heal from the infection.

Snake hibernation basking in the morning sunshine

Do all snakes hibernate?

Snakes do not actually perform hibernation. During the winter climates when the temperature falls from warm to cold, snakes take shelter to keep their bodies warmer by entering a state of rest which is called brumation.

All snake species including venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cotton heads, and cottonmouths snakes from North America, brumate when the weather cools down as they are cold-blooded animals. Snakes like garter snakes and northern water snakes are commonly seen around parks on a sunny day. Snakes are ectotherms, that is, their body temperature depends on the temperature of their surrounding environment. During summer, most reptiles usually spend their time in the open and crawl to their hiding at the night to sleep. In winter weather, they spend all their time hiding until spring comes again. Some snakes dig their own hiding place, while some use already existing burrows. They prefer to stay in the same dens unless they are forced out of that territory or die. If they are disturbed by humans in their dormant period, they may become aggressive and people in contact with them may be bitten. On discovering a snake's burrow near your house, you should immediately call the pest service for help. Snakes move to a sunny place to warm their body and skin after their brumation period is over.

What time of year do snakes hibernate?

Snakes spend most of the time of the year in brumation, mainly in winter, where they take shelter in their dens, remaining inactive but awake, and control their body temperatures, as well.

During the winter season, snakes start brumating from November to December and this lasts until March to early April in spring. Rattlesnakes tend to go into their dens from late October to early January. Western diamondback rattlesnakes, which are slightly larger and more commonly found species, tend to go into their dens a little later, on average. Snakes can be warming themselves in your basement when their body temperature falls. It can be dangerous for you to remove the snake on your own, as depending on the species, snakes are venomous. It is advisable to call the pest service or professional wildlife control company when dealing with a snake.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for when do snakes hibernate, then why not take a look at why do lizards do push-ups or vine snake fun facts?

Written By
Ayan Banerjee

<p>Thanks to his degree in nautical science from T.S. Chanakya, IMU Navi Mumbai Campus, Ayan excels at producing high-quality content across a range of genres, with a strong foundation in technical writing. Ayan's contributions as an esteemed member of the editorial board of The Indian Cadet magazine and a valued member of the Chanakya Literary Committee showcase his writing skills. In his free time, Ayan stays active through sports such as badminton, table tennis, trekking, and running marathons. His passion for travel and music also inspire his writing, providing valuable insights.</p>

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