Many snakes go through brumation, but most of these live in environments with extremely cold weather. As a result, they become less active, and they slow down their metabolism.
Since snakes are cold-blooded, they need to be less active in cold weather because they cannot get warm. During brumation, snakes may sleep for long periods.
What is Snake Brumation?
Brumation is the snake equivalent of hibernation for warm-blooded animals. During brumation, the snake becomes less active and slow down their metabolism to conserve energy during the winter months when food isn’t as readily available for them.
Snakes do not hibernate. Warm-blooded mammals hibernate, and during this process, their bodies use stored fat until the winter is over.
Some snakes sleep for a long time, and it is the reason some pet owners think that the snake is hibernating. However, snakes are different because they will still hunt or forage for food.
If the sun comes up or the temperature gets warm, snakes will come out of brumation. If the weather becomes cold again, they go back to brumation. Brumation can begin anytime from September and December and last up to March or April.
Read Also: Snake Hibernation Facts
List of Snakes that Brumate
There are more than 3,000 species of snakes, and it is virtually impossible to list down every type or species that brumates. Below is a list of snakes that brumate—those that are commonly known to the general population.
1. Milk Snakes
Adorable milk snakes spend the winter in a state of brumation. In the wild, they stick together. They stay in communal dens. Usually, one can find a den of milk snakes in burrows.
Like many snakes, rattlesnakes do not like the winter. On some occasions, they may even share a den with milk snakes.
Kingsnakes often brumate. Pet owners or breeders sometimes try to “fake” the brumation process by adjusting the temperature so the snakes would reproduce.
Rinkhals are also known as the ring-necked spitting cobra. They are venomous and live in southern Africa. It is not a true cobra. In the wild, it only comes out of its brumating hole when the temperature is at least 23 degrees Celsius.
5. Corn Snakes
When Corn snakes brumate, they may still roam in their cages. Most pet owners brumate this particular kind of snake for reproduction.
Can Snakes Brumate in Captivity?
Snake brumation is a natural process. However, in captivity, it cannot happen naturally, so many pet owners simulate the winter temperatures.
They try to mimic the temperature of brumation in the wild and then combine a male and female snake together. The “fake” brumation can last two months.
During this period, the owner does not feed the snake but leaves a lot of water. They also do not disturb the snake. After the brumation, the snake will resume eating. The owner hopes that the two snakes and that eggs will come out soon.
Brumating snakes in a simulated environment is dangerous. The snake can die if the owner makes a misstep.
Do all Snakes go Through Brumation?
Most snakes do brumate, but not all snakes go through brumation. For example, ball pythons do not brumate even in the wild, because the climate and ecosystem where they live allows them to get enough energy year-round.
In tropical areas, reptiles do not have a reason to go through brumation.
For example, snakes do not brumate in countries like Malaysia and the Philippines, where it does not snow. The same thing goes with some parts of India.
The same principle applies to snakes in captivity. Since the snakes live cozily in a terrarium, they have no reason to reduce their activities. The exception, of course, happens when it is freezing.
Many pet owners have lamps or heat pads to help warm up their pet snakes despite the winter. In addition, the house itself has thermostats that allow the owners to adjust the temperature.
How to Know if a Snake is in Brumation
A pet snake is less active if it is going through brumation. It does not move a lot, but it will respond to stimuli. For example, if a person lives in a freezing environment, the snake may go through brumation despite having a thermostat.
In such cases, the owner must lift the snake. If it moves or responds, then it is merely going through brumation. If it hangs limply, then the snake is already dead.
What Snakes can Survive in Cold Weather?
Despite being cold-blooded animals, many reptiles, including snakes, survive the winter. For example, a crocodile may bury itself underwater but keep its head afloat on top of the ice.
Snakes do not do that. However, they can survive temperatures. Below are snakes that live in cold temperatures.
- Garter snake
- Hognose snake
- Easter racer
Medium-sized constrictor snakes are also common in cold areas. In the United States, there are no snakes in Alaska as it is too cold for them. The same thing is true for Antarctica; there are no snakes there. Snakes cannot survive
Where do Snakes go in the Winter?
During brumation, snakes disappear. They go to warm places like dens, or they stay inside burrows that other animals made.
Read More: Do Snakes Make Nests?
For example, a snake may find a burrow made by a squirrel or a rodent. If it does, it will get inside. So it now depends on the animals if they would defend their territories.
Sometimes, snakes would share these dens. As such, it is not unusual to hear people talk about a “den of snakes.” But, in reality, snakes are not social animals. They only stick together if there is a need for it.
In urban areas, snakes will hide inside houses. They will find themselves in the attic, the garage, open pipes, boiler rooms, and other places that they will not get disturbed.
Snakes do not go through hibernation. Instead, they go through brumation. It is a process where they reduce their activities.
During brumation, snakes will still hunt and forage for food if the sun is up. They also need to bask under the sun to keep their bodies warm.
During winter, the snakes will look for warm shelter. They may use dens that other animals built. In urban areas, they will stay inside houses and buildings.
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.