When Do Snakes Hibernate?
Snakes are intriguing creatures found in many habitats around the world. One interesting trait of snakes is their proclivity to hibernate for most of winter, when environmental conditions become too cold for them to remain active. While most species of snakes go into hibernation at roughly the same time of the year, there are also variations from one species to another.
When Do Different Species of Snakes Hibernate?
When looking at different species of snakes, it is important to note that hibernation times can vary. Generally speaking, most snakes in the Northern Hemisphere begin to enter hibernation in October. As temperatures outside drop and hours of daylight in the winter shorten, snakes will enter into a dormant state and remain there until the warm weather of spring arrives. Here are some examples of various snake species and when they typically become inactive:
- Garter Snake – Garter snakes typically go into hibernation during the months of September and October.
- Eastern Fox Snake – Eastern fox snakes may hibernate as early as late August.
- Cottonmouth – Cottonmouth snakes usually become inactive around October.
- Rattlesnake – Rattlesnakes may enter hibernation as early as September.
Hibernation Behaviour for Snakes
When snakes enter a state of hibernation, they are said to be in a state of brumation – a form of torpor experienced by cold-blooded animals outside of winter where body temperature and metabolic processes slow down massively. This size reduction in the body temperature and metabolic processes is beneficial as it helps conserve energy stored during summer which would otherwise be wasted trying to keep warm in cold environments.
Snakes are considered one of the most dedicated hibernators. During this period, they can remain in the same place for months, surviving on fat reserves they had stored during summer. During brumation, snakes are able to maintain a lower body temperature than the typical active snake to conserve energy, and can even briefly lower the temperature of a single part of its body to warm up quickly without risking hypothermia.
Snakes are fascinating creatures that have evolved to survive in harsh environments through the mechanism of hibernation. While most species of snakes typically hibernate at around the same time of year, from late August to October, there are also variations from one species to another. When snakes enter into hibernation, they slow down their body temperature and metabolic processes to conserve energy, allowing them to survive harsh winters without eating for prolonged periods of time.