Snakes in the wild do what they can to survive the seasons, especially when it gets too cold for most creatures to survive. But does that mean they hibernate, or do they go to other places for the winter?
Snakes do hibernate, or rather, brumate. During cold weather, they hide underground, protected from low temperatures. Their metabolism, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature go down, and they become inactive even though they don’t actually sleep.
The rest of this article will explore snake hibernation further, including whether snakes hibernate in Texas and Florida, whether they hibernate in winter, and whether they hibernate or migrate.
Brumation vs. Hibernation
Brumation is slightly different from hibernation, which is something mammals do. Reptiles brumate, and snakes, being reptiles, are ectothermic or cold-blooded. This means they must depend on the environment to keep them warm.
Consequently, snakes come out of brumation briefly if there’s a warm spell during cold seasons, while hibernating mammals will not.
Do Snakes Hibernate in Florida?
Snakes do hibernate in Florida in the winter. Though the climate in much of Florida seems warm to humans all year, temperatures get low enough in some areas to trigger brumation in snakes.
However, since the weather may warm periodically, Florida snakes can be seen sometimes, even in winter.
For this reason, it’s common for people in Florida to find snakes inside their homes, garages, and crawl spaces when the weather cools. Even when it isn’t cold enough to send snakes into brumation, they naturally seek warmer areas.
Cool weather makes them sluggish, which makes hunting and avoiding predators more difficult.
There are approximately 55 species of snake in Florida. However, only six species are venomous, including the following:
- Florida cottonmouth
- Eastern copperhead
- Harlequin coral snake
- Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
- Dusky pygmy rattlesnake
- Timber rattlesnake
Experts advise that the best way to handle a snake you find in or near your home is to:
- Back away slowly.
- Don’t get between the snake and its nearest source of cover, such as something for it to crawl under.
- Don’t try to catch it or kill it, as this is how most snake bites happen.
- When you’re sure any children or pets are protected, call the appropriate wildlife authorities to remove the snake.
Do Snakes Hibernate in Texas?
Snakes do hibernate in Texas. Although Texas is hot in the summer, winter brings cold weather, including near-freezing temperatures. This drives snakes into brumation until late February or March when the weather begins to warm again.
In fact, similar to Florida, snakes are prolific in Texas, as 68 different species make this state their home.
As a result, Texans often need special services to remove snakes from their garages, attics, and basements during the cold season. You might even find them under your couch or behind your bedroom furniture.
Since snakes that wake from brumation during warm spells come out to find food and water, and because Texas is home to plenty of venomous snakes, this makes for a dangerous situation.
Texas’ venomous snake species include copperheads, cottonmouth, coral snakes, and nine varieties of rattlesnakes. As in Florida, it’s recommended not to approach any snake in Texas unless you can identify it as non-venomous.
Call pest removal or wildlife services to handle the snake if it is in or near your home.
Do Snakes Hibernate in Winter?
Snakes do hibernate in winter, as well as in other seasons, depending on the location and climate. The European viper can sometimes be found just north of the Arctic Circle, and it survives by going into brumation for up to 9 months out of the year.
However, the European viper is an exception more than a rule, as it’s the only snake known to live in such a cold environment. Most snakes live in much warmer places where they go into brumation during the winter and perhaps during an especially cold period in fall or spring.
In fact, most of the places in the world with no snakes are those with cold climates, like Iceland, Alaska, northern Canada, northern Russia, and Greenland. However, some places, like Ireland, New Zealand, and other island environments, also have no snakes, mainly due to their isolation.
Do Snakes Hibernate or Migrate?
Snakes both hibernate and migrate, but while brumation happens in response to low temperatures, snakes migrate for two reasons in two different seasons. One is in the fall to find a safe place to hibernate, and the other is in the spring to find food and reproduce.
In addition, snake migration is comparably a much shorter journey than the migrations of other animals, such as birds or mammals. While, for example, the Arctic tern travels roughly 56,000 miles (90,000 km) in its yearly migration, a snake typically travels less than 2-3 miles (3-5 km).
Famous Snake Migrations
There are many places in the world where snake migration can be witnessed. In fact, these migrations often bring snakes directly into contact with humans, historically resulting in the deaths of countless snakes.
For that reason, and because some snake species could become threatened due to cars and roads alone, a few of these migration areas are now protected. The following snake migrations are the most famous in the world.
Illinois’ LaRue “Snake Road” Migration
Arguably the most famous snake migration happens in Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest, USA. Snakes migrate out of the LaRue swamp to their hibernation grounds in the fall, then back to the swamp in the spring to hunt and mate.
The migration takes them across LaRue Road, which has earned the title “Snake Road.” A 2.5 mile (4 km) stretch of the road is closed for four months each year, split between the spring and fall, to protect the migration of the snakes.
It also protects many species of frogs, toads, lizards, salamanders, and turtles that use the same migration path. Common snakes that can be viewed on Snake Road during migration seasons include the following:
- Midland water snake
- Northern red-bellied snake
- Western ribbon snake
- Western mud snake
- Eastern hognose snake
- Eastern rough green snake
- Diamond-backed water snake
- Red milk snake
- Black rat snake
- Black racer
- Midland brown snake
- Ringneck snake
- King snake.
NARCISSE, Manitoba Snake Migration
The snake migration in the small Canadian town of Narcisse, Manitoba, is considered the largest in the world.
Every year around Mother’s Day, over 75,000 red-sided Garter snakes migrate out of the Narcisse snake dens to spend 10 days mating in open sinkholes under the spring sun. The snake dens lie in an area where the forest is riddled with limestone caves perfect for snake hibernation.
Here, snakes can survive the icy north Canadian climate by dwelling below the freeze line for most of the year.
While the Narcisse snake migration doesn’t involve any open roads, the event brings thousands of tourists and scientists from all over the country each year. This provides an excellent opportunity for the people of Manitoba’s Wildlife service to educate the world about snakes, ensuring their protection and preservation.
Snakes do hibernate, but it’s called brumation, which is different from hibernation because it depends on temperature. They’ll wake up if the weather warms, even for a short period, and will hibernate in both Florida and Texas or wherever there is a cold season.
If you come across a brumating snake, it’s probably best to leave it alone.