Snakes do hibernate and this varies from snake species and location.
Not all snakes do hibernate, as they have no need to, such as boa constrictors being a prime example.
The most common snakes that do go into a hibernation is rattle snakes, cotton mouth. The adder is another example, in the UK this species of snake must hibernate to survive throughout the winter period. During the colder month the adder will find a safe area that has very limited access for any potential predators that may emerge.
During this time, a snake’s metabolism is smart and adapts well, slowing down dramatically, a snake can go months without any food and not causing any health issues because not moving reduces the energy used by 90%.
Why Do Snakes Hibernate
This is the same as other animals that hibernate such as bears. During the warm period where there is much food, a snake will eat as much food as possible.
This is stored as body fat on the snake, as the climate becomes colder, snakes do not thrive and find food sources to become sparse. Therefore, a hibernation period is like a long sleep until the warmer seasons approach once again.
If a snake does not eat well or enough to last the hibernation period, there is a risk of the snake starving and dying during this time.
Other snakes such as boas and pythons do not hibernate, this is due to the climates in which they live do not require this to be done but these snakes do have a brumation period.
What is Hibernation
Hibernation is an extended period of sleep where little energy is used, and the animal will not wake or move until the hibernation period is over.
Also, a hibernation period allows the snake to focus on acclimatising to the lower temperatures. Because snakes are cold blooded, they depend on their environment to thrive, if this falls below what the snake needs, they must take action (hibernate) to continue their survival.
This temp varies again from snake species, but a guideline is that under 60 degrees Fahrenheit becomes too cold for a snake to actively function.
What is Brumation
Brumation is similar to a hibernation but there are some subtle differences.
A snake will voluntarily go into this when the temperature drops enough, this has a different purpose.
Snake breeding season is straight after the brumation period and during this time of cooling. A male’s snakes sperm becomes fertile.
If a male snake does not come down for 1 – 3 months their sperm will be less fertile or not at all.
Over time this has becomes a snake’s perfect time to breed after this brumation, the reason for this is during the cooling period and as it passes. A snake will then mate straight after and the climate must be warm for snake eggs to successfully hatch.
Brumation For Female Snakes
For Females, brumation is essential and is a stressful period as their breeding season immediately afterwards relies on success.
She must eat more than enough to allow for the brumation period and still have energy to both hunt and find a mate (which is males tend to seek the female snake).
As previously mentioned, snakes have come to the realisation that if they breed straight after the brumation period, they are likely to lay their eggs during the height of the warm months.
Where do snakes go during hibernation?
Ever wonder where all these hibernating snakes go? Or why you need seem to spot a hibernating snake?
This is because they are masters of finding areas in which they and very little other animals can gain access too.
The most common areas are within rock crevice’s on mountain sides, because of their body shapes, snakes are fantastic at getting into even the smallest of gaps with ease.
Other areas are empty nest or vacated nests. Rat holes are another area. It can be within trees in the centre of the tree trunk.
Snakes will find a space which is likely to fit them and just them within the entirety of the hibernation space.
With the snake’s body touch either side of the nest, a snake feels more secure that nothing is going to be approaching from any direction and allows them to completely relax during hibernation