Do Snakes Hibernate?

Snakes are reptiles. This category includes lizards, turtles and crocodiles. Reptiles are cold blooded.

Snakes evolved from terrestrial lizards over 180 million years ago. The oldest snake fossil was known as, Eophis underwoodi. It was a small snake that lived in southern England.

Snakes Habitat and Diet

Snakes choose their habitat based on its species. Some live in semi-arid areas, others in the desert, the rain-forest, and others in water. Since snakes are ectotherms. This means that they are unable to internally regulate their body temperature. They cannot live in very cold habitats. They raise their temperature by lying under the sun. They lower the temperature by hiding under rocks or shade.

A snake’s diet consists of termites, small deer, rodents, birds, frogs and other reptiles. Snakes eat their prey whole. They have the ability to eat larger prey than themselves. They can consume a prey three times bigger than its head size. This is because its upper jaw can separate from the lower one.

Do snakes hibernate?

To hibernate is to withdraw, be in seclusion or to retire. Hibernation is a deep sleepwhen do snakes hibernate that helps animals save energy, rest and survive the winter or a season. During hibernation animals are able to stay without eating. The animals breathing and its heartbeat slows down. The temperature drops to help conserve energy. Brumation is another word for hibernation.

A study done by Marshall McCue, of the University of Arkansan, showed that, Snakes have the ability to lower metabolism rate by over 72%. The study was done to over 60 different species by withholding food. The study indicated that snakes can significantly lowered metabolism by up to 70%. This means that they can stay for prolonged period of time without food.


Not all snakes hibernate. Snakes that don’t hibernate live in the tropical climate. This climate is hot enough. Snakes do not need to look for warmth or look for ways to conserve energy during winter.

The snakes that hibernate are found in cold places. During winter snakes move to find warm places to conserve energy.

Snakes hide in different locations. They include; under rocks, near hillside, deep underground, under debris, under leaves, deep underground and in empty animal burrows.

Some snakes hibernate only with its species. Others can hibernate together with other species but go separate ways after hibernation.

Snakes look for warm hibernation sites to ensure they survive during winter. If snakes fail to find favorable hiding place they are at risk of freezing to death. The snakes prefer damp environments that are well ventilated. Yearly, the snakes hibernate during cold seasons. They find appropriate locations to hide during winter. Many different species sometimes hibernate together. During hibernation, snakes occasionally move about to drink or eat. They also come out when temperatures periodically change during winter.

Snake species of boas and pythons don’t hibernate.

Why Do Snakes Hibernate?

To Conserve Energy

This is the main reason why snakes hibernate. They hibernate during cold seasons in order to minimize energy dispensing. Snakes have the ability to use conserved energy for the duration of hibernation. Snakes can survive much longer without food. Snakes on occasion leave this state to eat but they do return to hibernate. By using little energy snakes can hibernate for 4-6 months.


 To Slow the Heart Rate

With a lowered heart rate snakes are able to stay long periods without food and water. The energy used is minimal. This is how snakes survive through winter to avoid death. Snakes are able to hibernate for 4-5 months with little or no food. Before hibernation,  snake eat large quantities of food during fall. This is in preparation of hibernation during winter.

To Lower body metabolism

By minimizing movement, they lower the heart rate snakes are able to lower their metabolism. A slow metabolism is beneficial for longevity. It prevents snakes from wearing out. The ability to have a lowered metabolism ensures its survival during winter. The goal is to maintain the internal body temperature. This is until the outside temperature is warm enough for the snake to survive.  Hibernation helps with many animals continuity, without hibernation many would die.

When Do Snakes Hibernate

  1. During unfavorable Climatic conditions
  2. During Gestation period
  3. While Fasting
  4. When forced to Relocate

During Unfavorable Climatic Conditions

The climatic condition of a locality can determine when snakes hibernate. During winter snakes are among many animals that are forced to hibernate. They hibernate to conserve energy because hunting is impossible and the temperatures are very low. The energy they conserve is primarily to help them keep warm. Both predators and prey have to hide for survival.

The snakes hibernate until the climate conditions are favorable. Different species hibernate for different periods.

During Gestation Period

The female species while pregnant tend to limit movement. This help lower its body functions significantly. They don’t hibernate while pregnant instead they laze around and bask under the sun. The females tend to hibernate after hatching the babies. They do this to protect the young ones from predators. Not all snake species protect the babies. Some snakes leave the babies to fend for themselves after birth or when hatched.


Fasting is another period that causes snakes to hibernate. The North Pacific rattlesnake doesn’t eat during her pregnancy. She’s in a state of semi hibernation throughout her pregnancy. After hatching, she goes again to hibernate in order to tend and to protect the young snakes. The rattle snake is believed to survive for a whole year without food. Snakes also go through a state of semi hibernation before they shed their skin.

Forced relocation

Human wildlife conflict is when humans encroach on places animals inhabited. Humans invade forests and other animal natural habitats to farm, build or live. This forces snakes and other animals to flee and hide in safe locations. Snakes look for new places to inhabit which include human homes. Humans who love and understand snakes create artificial hiding areas in their homes for the snakes to hibernate. The artificial homes are dug up holes stuffed with rocks and debris. They create a place that suits snakes nature.


Not all snakes hibernate. The species that does, hibernates’ escape the harsh winter conditions that threaten survival. Therefore, it is true to say that for species continuity. Snake in cold places MUST hibernate to escape death.


Leave a Comment