Rattlesnakes do not hibernate but in colder climates they can go into a state of brumation. They do not store fats and sleep as bears do, but instead, they become less active and sleep for longer.
Brumation is a process similar to hibernation, but only for cold-blooded animals. They hide underground or in dens to keep their bodies warm.
Cold-blooded animals cannot survive extreme cold. In brumation, the animals move during warm winter days, while animals that hibernate do not move at all.
What is Rattlesnake Brumation?
Rattlesnakes, like many snakes, go through brumation on cold days. They need to do this to regulate their body temperature.
When they do, they reduce their metabolism by as much as 70%. As a result, they can live for months without food. However, they would still have to come out and hunt if they did not have a big meal before the brumation.
During brumation, the rattlesnake will seek a den. First, some of them will hide under rocks or a thick bush. Then, when temperatures drop, they do what they can to avoid sub-zero conditions.
Read More: Snakes That Brumate
Some of them hide in dens. However, it is also not unusual for these snakes to find their way into basements and houses.
During warm winter days, they would come out and bask under the sun to regulate their temperature. They would also hunt for food if they were hungry.
When snakes brumate, it is also highly likely that they will copulate. This is because some of them are in the den with other snakes, and it is an opportune time to multiply.
For this reason, pet owners ask questions about whether or not they should brumate their snakes. Of course, they want to do this if they have both males and females of the same species.
In this process, they adjust the temperature of the snake’s environment to mimic the cold in nature. Then, they put together two snakes and kept them there for months. After the whole process, they are hopeful that the female will become pregnant.
Related: 24 Examples of Animals that Hibernate
Do Rattlesnakes Come Out in the Winter?
Yes, rattlesnakes do come out during the winter. However, the sun must also be up. Their only reason to come out is the sun. They need to bask to regulate their temperature.
Snakes are cold-blooded animals. Some scientists studied the thermoregulation process of snakes in Southeastern Australia. Notably, they studied the nocturnal elapid snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides).
They found out that inclement weather prevented snakes from achieving an ideal body temperature. However, snakes only took advantage of the situation 26% of the time if the weather was perfect.
In essence, snakes do come out of their dens in winter. Rattlesnakes, being vipers, need a temperature between 70- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. As such, they have to retreat from situations where the temperature is extremely hot or cold.
When snakes come out during the winter, they have to assess the temperature outside their den. Another factor is their internal body temperature. If they are still warm, they will stay in their den. If not, they have to bask under the sun.
Diet is another factor that one has to consider. A hungry rattlesnake will certainly come out on a sunny winter day. It is a good time to come out, as other animals that hide during winter would do the same. It is during this time that the rattlesnake would find prey such as rats and frogs.
Read More: What Do Rattlesnakes Eat?
What Month do Rattlesnakes Hibernate or Brumate?
Snakes brumate in different months. It all depends on their environment. As one can tell, winter does not start simultaneously in all places in the world.
The tiger rattlesnake goes into brumation between October and December. It is a small species of rattlesnakes. The western diamondback rattlesnake, on the other hand, goes to brumation at a later period.
Tiger rattlesnakes often crawl under rock cracks and crevices about two to four feet below the ground. They hide there until spring.
The western diamondback, however, prefers rocky slopes. They also go into small caves. The western diamondback shares its den with its kind. Some dens have up to 20 rattlesnakes in them.
The black-tailed rattlesnake, however, dens on its own.
In some countries where it does not snow, rattlesnakes may not brumate at all. Instead, they would continue with their lives as usual—hunting for food at the time they typically do.
Related Article: Can Rattlesnakes Jump?
What Time of Day are Rattlesnakes Most Active?
Rattlesnakes are diurnal creatures. What this means is that they are active during the day. However, snakes active at night are nocturnal.
Generally speaking, rattlesnakes are active in the morning. However, despite being active during the day, the temperature can become so hot that one will not see them around.
For example, rattlesnakes may become nocturnal during extremely hot summer months. They would hunt at night. When ideal conditions are back, the rattlesnake will hunt during the day again.
Read More: Are Snakes Nocturnal?
What Time of Year do Rattlesnakes Go Away?
Rattlesnakes tend not to be seen by humans much during winter. They come out more actively in spring.
There is no specific month that can serve as a one-all be-all answer to this question. It all depends on the weather in the area area.
Expert trail park managers and hikers say that rattlesnakes come out of brumation around April and May. From this information, one can say that they are not around prior to the months around this period.
Rattlesnakes have high visibility and activity between September and October. After that, once winter comes, they would disappear.
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Summary: Do Rattlesnakes Hibernate?
Rattlesnakes do not hibernate. No snake ever goes into hibernation. Instead, they brumate, a process where they hide to protect themselves from extreme cold.
In hibernation, the animal sleeps. In brumation, the animal does not sleep. Animals that brumate are cold-blooded, and they go out of their hiding spots is the sun is up. They did this to bask and to hunt for food.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.