Snakes are unable to regulate their internal body temperature, like most mammals, since they are cold-blooded. Like warm-blooded creatures, snakes also seek shelter from the winter’s harsh weather. Although this behavior is similar to hibernation, scientists call this brumation. During this process, snakes shut down their systems, conserve their energy and prepare for reproduction. Below we explain what brumation is and why snakes do it during the winter.
What is Brumation?
Since snakes are cold-blooded animals who can’t regulate their body temperature easily, they tend to become sluggish and lethargic during cold weather. Their increasingly inactive body makes them less likely to catch and digest prey.
During the process of brumation, the snake’s body gradually slows its metabolism and starts conserving energy. Since they use less energy, they are also able to handle longer periods without feeding. Although they do sleep higher amounts during brumation, they are still able to leave the den to look for food and water, unlike warm-blooded animals during hibernation.
When do Snakes Brumate?
Brumation periods vary in every region. In northern regions, where there is typically colder weather, brumation periods last longer and start earlier. Usually, brumation can start from September through December and end until March or April. Depending on the weather pattern, some snakes can come out of brumation if the weather is warm enough outside.
Where do Snakes Brumate?
Snakes tend to go underground, under rock piles and into mammal burrows to avoid freezing temperatures. Normally, they find underground shelter in slopes that form natural dens. These dens have rocks that absorb heat, which provides warm shelter while the snakes brumate.
Other possible brumation locations in the wild include:
- Rodent dens
- Tree stumps
- Deep caverns
Other possible brumation locations NOT in the wild include:
- Crawl spaces
- Boiler rooms
- Storage rooms
- Car engines
Ideally, the best brumation place is somewhere away from rain or the outside elements. Sometimes snakes prefer brumating in groups since their body heat serves to help them stay warmer.