Snakes In Winter

by Tanzen Lilith (Southside Snake Services)

As the weather cools I hear many people saying that they are surprised to see a snake, as they believe that the snakes are already hibernating. Although it takes place during the same time of year and for the same purposes as hibernation, a reptile’s dormant period is called Brumation.

As do mammals, reptiles enter this semi-dormant state to survive cold temperatures and periods of low resources. 

Brumation means that even in the middle of winter we will see snake activity on the warm days. Due to reptiles being cold-blooded they are dependent on their environment for thermoregulation. 

The term for a cold-blooded animal is Ectotherm. When the temperatures drop and the  days grow shorter the snakes will seek shelter in places that they can be somewhat insulated

 They seek shelter underground, in rock crevices, leaf litter, in and around manmade structures. During Brumation a snake’s metabolism slows down significantly.

Their heart rate and breathing will decrease and little to no digestion will occur. 

This leaves them with less energy and less appetite as they survive off the fat stores in their bodies that they accumulated during the warmer months. 

They become mostly inactive and slow-moving and may stay in the same spot for weeks.

 They still need to drink water and will move to find water, perhaps staying active for a few days and then enter into a deep sleep again. Several snakes, usually of the same species, may Brumate together in the same location.

So even in the cooler weather and all through winter we will see some snake activity. There will be much less activity than during the warmer months but it’s still important to be cautious when gardening and cleaning up debris etc.