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Snakes Basking & Brumating

Being ectothermic (unable to regulate their own body temperature) snakes cannot afford to spend the winter in a spot that freezes. After basking and feeding heavily in the late fall, they seek out sheltered caves, hollow logs, and burrows where they enter a state called brumation.  Brumation is to reptiles what hibernation is to mammals – an extreme slowing down of one’s metabolism.

While similar, these two states have their differences. Hibernating mammals slow their respiration down, but they still require a fair amount of oxygen present to survive.  Snakes can handle far lower oxygen demands and fluctuations than mammals.  Also, hibernating mammals sleep the entire time during their dormancy, whereas snakes have periods of activity during brumation.  If the weather is mild, they will take advantage of the opportunity to venture out and bask.  They also need to drink during this period in order to avoid dehydration. (Photo: DeKay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) basking)

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8 responses

  1. Faith Bieler

    Mary, Hi its Faith..I want to buy your calendar..your address please !



    October 23, 2020 at 7:57 am

    • Hi Faith,
      It’s 505 Wake Robin Drive, Shelburne, VT 05483. Thank you!

      October 24, 2020 at 10:50 am

  2. Sarah Zuccarelli

    No photo today…..?????

    SWZ/NH Please visit and support (‘> ( ) / ”

    October 23, 2020 at 9:00 am

    • For some unknown reason some people didn’t get the photo at first but when they clicked on the title the photo showed up? So sorry!

      October 24, 2020 at 10:52 am

  3. judilindsey

    I did not see a photo with this. Thanks, Judi


    October 23, 2020 at 9:25 am

  4. Alice

    Me, too…no photo. I think there will be one 😁

    October 23, 2020 at 9:39 am

  5. Alice

    I clicked on ‘Storeria dekayi’…after Mary Holland & can see the photo

    October 23, 2020 at 3:53 pm

  6. Once again, very interesting! I had never heard the term “brumation,” and was curious about its etymology. It seems that “bruma” means “winter” or perhaps “winter solstice” in Latin, and that the term was first “made up” and offered 1965 by an American zoologist, Wilbur W. Mayhew, in an article he wrote about “hibernation in the horned lizard” – he suggested that a different term was needed for winter dormancy in reptiles/ectotherms.

    Mary, I’m curious whether reptiles have some chemical change in their circulatory systems that protects them from freezing? (I’m thinking of amphibians, where I understand that Ice crystals can form inside their bodies, but that there’s enough glucose (I think) created in their blood and carried to the cells throughout their bodies, to protect them from freezing?) Anything similar in snakes?

    October 24, 2020 at 10:53 am

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