Do Snakes Hibernate and What is Brumation?

Most people know about hibernation with mammals and plants. Hibernation is considered a state of very deep sleep to stay dormant to conserve energy until the cold season passes for animals and plants. Have you ever heard of brumation? Read more, and you’ll learn all about the difference between hibernation and brumation regarding snakes.

What is Hibernation?

Hibernation lowers the body temperature in animals, slowing breathing and heartbeats, depressing the metabolism, and exerting little to no energy.

An animal’s body uses up the stored fats to maintain the necessary body processes and to keep the animals warm throughout the season of hibernation.

People commonly think that snakes also hibernate because we don’t see them as much in the colder months. This assumption is mistaken and could lead to unexpected – and likely unwanted – snake run-ins. Snakes do not go into full hibernation. They enter a similar state called brumation.

What is Brumation?

Brumation means a hibernation-like state that cold-blooded animals into during very cold weather. It is a dormant period for reptiles where their bodies shut down and conserve energy for the coming year. During a reptile brumation, the snake may not eat, drink, defecate, or move for several weeks at a time.

Over the brumation period, the reptile sleeps but does not require the same amount of sleep as hibernation. They can wake and forage for food and water during this time. Since the snakes are using much less energy, they can go much more extended periods in between feedings.

The brumation period can begin sometime between September to December and will last until March or April, depending on the weather. If a warm front appears, snakes may come out of brumation. Snakes can sense warmer weather.

Where Do Snakes Go During Brumation?

During brumation, snakes migrate into warmer places such as dens made by other animals where they will bury themselves in tree stumps, caves, and deep caverns in the wild. Survival is their main goal during brumation. In the cities and suburbs, snakes crawl into spaces like basements, boiler rooms, garages, woodpiles, open pipes, barns, sheds, storage spaces, or even car engines to keep warm. Coming out of brumation, snakes can create a significant threat or danger for you, your family, employees, and your customers.

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