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Where Do Snakes Go In The Cold Winter Months?

Nicole Cosgrove

Although they do not hibernate, snakes do become less active during winter. While snakes do not hibernate, they do brumate. Brumation is similar to hibernation in that it occurs during the coldest months of the year and causes the snake to become considerably less active. Because snakes know that they will brumate and know they will have slower reactions and endure a greater chance of being attacked, they will head to warmer areas like animal dens or natural habitats.

In this article, we look at where snakes go during the winter months, what constitutes a cold month, and whether there are any steps that you can take to prevent bromating snakes from lodging in your premises.

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What Is Hibernation?

Hibernation is a means by which animals can survive cold winters without having to find a way to hunt and keep their body temperatures up. During winter, food is harder to come by, and many animals perish as a result of sub-zero temperatures.

Hibernation offers a method of avoiding the potential pitfalls of winter. The heart rate and body temperature of the animal drop significantly. The animal requires less oxygen and will barely show any signs of life. Once temperatures rise again, the animal will effectively wake up and come out of hibernation. It is an effective way to avoid perishing during the most challenging months, although it is not without its own perils and hazards.

snake in a dark place
Image Credit: Dev Abhiram, Unsplash

Why Do Snakes Not Hibernate?

It is warm-blooded animals that hibernate because they have a degree of control over their body temperature. Cold-blooded animals, including the snake, cannot elicit this control over their core temperature, making it impossible for them to truly hibernate. Rather than hibernation, snakes enter a similar state known as brumation.

What Is Brumation?

Brumation is similar to hibernation. The snake becomes considerably less active and its metabolism slows. A slower metabolism means that the snake does not need to eat as much or as often as it does during warmer months. The snake will sleep for weeks or even months, but it will need to wake occasionally to eat and to get water. Snakes can also wake from brumation if the temperature undergoes a warm snap. They will go back to sleep once the temperature drops once more.

California kingsnake in grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

Where Do Snakes Go To Brumate?

Snakes want somewhere secure and as warm as possible in which to hibernate. This includes dens and homes belonging to other animals such as rodents and even other snakes. They may also find natural warm spots in tree trunks, caves, or bushes. For snakes that live in or near urban areas, they will also look for winter dens in which to brumate. This can include areas like garages, crawlspaces, and even sheds. Snakes have also been found bromating in car engines, under wood piles, and almost anywhere that they are protected from cold winds and low temperatures.

At What Temperature Do Snakes Become Inactive?

The exact temperature a snake enters brumation depends on many factors including the species and breed of snake, its country or place of origin, and even the individual snake. However, as a rule, the key temperature is 60°F. When it reaches this temperature, if it continues to gradually drop, a snake will look to enter a state of brumation and will usually come out of brumation once the temperature gets back up to this point.

green tree python curling on a tree branch
Image Credit: David Clode, Unsplash

Do Pet Snakes Need To Brumate?

Pet snakes do not usually need to brumate because they should have year-round temperate conditions. However, breeders that want to offer a realistic living environment may encourage brumation by lowering tank temperature. It is possible to encourage mating by forcing brumation. In the wild, the male garter snake wakes up sooner than the female to mate with the females as they come round.

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Tips To Prevent Snakes From Sheltering On Your Property

Brumating snakes are not asleep and are not hibernating. While they might be docile, they can wake up quickly, especially if they are threatened. As such, it can be dangerous to approach a bromating snake. You can’t always help coming across a bromating snake, though, if it is using part of your property as a warm den. The following tips can help prevent snakes from spending winter in your outbuildings, crawl space, or other property.

1. Maintain Your Landscaping

Snakes will brumate in long grass because it generates warmth even in cold weather. It also makes a good habitat for small rodents and other animals that snakes count as prey. Ensure that your grass is kept short and your landscaping is well maintained: this will prevent local snakes from taking shelter in your garden and on your property.

a lawn mower in the frontyard
Image Credit: Skitterphoto, Pixabay

2. Keep Wood Piles Off the Ground

Wood piles are another popular winter hide for snakes. They offer protection from potential predators as well as warmth. They also offer cover from rain and snow. Ensure that your woodpile is maintained off the ground. Ideally, it should be at least 12 inches from ground level, if possible, and even more ideally, the wood should be stored in an airtight container that will provide a barrier around the wood and prevent snakes from setting up home.


3. Fix Damage and Openings In Sheds

Sheds and other outbuildings can be tempting to a snake looking for somewhere warm. Fortunately, they can’t chew and they can’t break wood or walls. If you see small holes in the bottom of doors, or openings in panels, ensure that they are properly sealed before winter. This will prevent snakes and other wildlife from moving in.

shed in a countryside
Image Credit: Siggy Nowak, Pixabay

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Where Do Snakes Go in the Cold Winter Months?

Snakes do not hibernate, but they do enter a state of brumation, which is similar but not the same as hibernation. During brumation, which occurs when temperatures get cold and lasts until it warms up again, the snake is not necessarily asleep and it can be roused, but it eats less, breathes slower, and burns less energy. It has the appearance of hibernation, but you should avoid disturbing snakes that are in this state because they can attack when woken.


Featured Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.