During winter, some snakes enter a state similar to hibernation: they sleep most of the time, and don’t move, eat, or drink. As an owner, you should be prepared to change your care routine accordingly. Today, let’s talk about whether hibernation is typical of ball pythons.
Ball pythons do not hibernate; however, they may refuse food for a prolonged period of time during winter. If your snake is healthy, there is nothing to worry about. Yet, if it loses more than 10% of body weight or refuses food for three months or longer, this could be a sign of illness.
Read on to learn more about the state and habits of ball pythons in winter months and how to take care of your pet during this time.
Why Ball Pythons Don’t Hibernate
Hibernation is an adaptive mechanism that helps animals survive during cold months when a lot of energy is needed to keep warm, and food is difficult to find. As snakes are cold-blooded creatures, they go into a slightly different state called brumation.
During brumation, reptiles enter a dormant state to conserve energy. They crawl into warmer spaces like caves or tree stumps, stop eating, drinking, and defecating, and sleep throughout most of this period. However, unlike hibernating creatures, they may wake up, move, and occasionally feed.
Still, brumation is a forced measure and bears certain risks for the animals. They only develop this survival mechanism if their habitat has rough winters. As ball pythons are tropical snakes, they don’t brumate, as a winter shortage of resources is not a severe issue in their warm climate.
Nonetheless, you may notice changes in their behavior during the winter months. Sometimes they will become less active and lose interest in food. That’s a normal reaction to season change that is common in ball pythons; however, it could also be a sign of health issues.
What To Do if Your Ball Python Isn’t Eating
While it’s natural for ball pythons to not feed for extended periods during cold seasons, it is essential to ensure there’s no serious issue behind this behavior change. Other common causes for anorexia in snakes could be:
- incorrect temperature in the vivarium
- stress, often caused by sudden changes in their environment
- respiratory illness (with additional symptoms like excessive salivation and difficulties when breathing)
If none of the above is the case for your snake, it is probably reacting to the reduction of daylight hours. Keep an eye on your pet’s condition and make sure it doesn’t lose more than 10% of its weight. A significant weight loss or refusing to feed for more than three months is unhealthy and calls for a visit to your vet.
Ball pythons do not brumate or hibernate as they are tropical snakes adapted to a warm climate. However, they can become less active in winter and experience anorexia or lose interest in feeding.
Make sure you provide the proper environmental conditions and that no disturbing symptoms of illness are present. Monitor the snake’s body weight, and don’t let it go without food for longer than three months.