Whether you like them or not, snakes can be found worldwide, with over 3,000 species known to science. The few exceptions, such as the continent of Antarctica, are cold, frozen places where you’d be hard-pressed to find any reptile.
Snakes do not live in snow as the temperatures are too cold. Anytime the temperatures drop below 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 18 degrees Celsius), snakes will go into brumation to survive, finding someplace to huddle until it gets warmer.
Keep reading for more info on how these limbless reptiles survive in environments where it snows during the winter.
What Do Snakes Do When It Snows?
Snakes, like all reptiles, are ectothermic, meaning they rely on outside heat sources to warm their body. When it gets cold, reptiles are at a high risk of dying.
To combat this, snakes enter a state known as ‘brumation’ when winter approaches and the temperature hits below 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (16-18 degrees Celsius). Brumation is, in the most basic terms, the cold-blooded animal’s equivalent to the hibernation of warm-blooded animals, like mammals.
One difference is that brumation is more about slowing the body’s functions and not so much the deep sleep hibernating animals are known for. Creatures that brumate may ‘wake up’ on warmer days and search for food or water, returning to their burrow or den when those hours of warmth fade away.
The reptiles will either burrow below the frost line or find a warm nook to curl up in, sometimes in groups of dozens of snakes – more bodies can contain more heat, after all. These snake dens are called hibernaculum, and below are a few more examples of where snakes may decide to spend the cold months of the year:
- Tree stumps
- Old mammal dens
- Car engines
As you can see, snakes are not particularly picky. In addition, and as mentioned above, you may find far more snakes than expected if you stumble upon a hibernaculum, even for typically solitary species.
How Cold Can Snakes Get?
Snakes are not likely to survive if they are stuck outside when temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). At that point, they need to, at the least, be able to burrow into the ground to stay warm enough.
As a result, snakes can’t live in areas such as Antarctica because the ground is frozen the entire year, and therefore, there’s no real place for them to shelter during the cold, never mind when it snows.
Are There Any Snakes That Live in Cold Environments?
While no snakes live in Antarctica, you may be surprised to discover that there is a species of snake that calls parts of the Arctic Circle home. The common European adder not only lives throughout most of Europe, but that wide range includes places like Norway and Russia.
The common European adder is an incredibly resistant snake. It survives in these harsh, freezing places by brumating, sometimes up to nine months of the year. In addition, these adders also huddle together in massive groups. A single den was found to have over one hundred snakes curled up inside.
As cold-blooded reptiles, snakes will not be out and about during the winter, except perhaps on the warmest days. They cannot handle temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) and will die if they can’t get below the frost line or find a warm place to huddle, sometimes in large groups.
While snakes may live in areas where it snows, they are safely tucked away in dens or burrows by that time of year, brumating throughout the cold.