What To Do When Pet Snakes Hibernate?

Pet snakes can hibernate or brumate as it is called during occasions when they need to control their body temperatures. During cold seasons snakes tend to disappear and don’t return to the wild or neighborhood until summer. Hibernation is a very common thing in snakes. Most pet snake owners wonder what to do when pet snakes hibernate. Here we have tried to answer all the questions regarding pet snake hibernation.

How Do I Know If My Snake Is Hibernating?

When your pet snake hibernates, you will know when it is lying completely still for a considerable time. People often think the snake is dying or very sick. This is how they behave during brumation. This is a kind of hibernation that takes place when temperatures are falling.

During this time your pet snake will stop eating and seek a place to rest ideally a warmer place.

Is My Snake In Brumation?

To know whether your pet snake is in brumation you will need to observe your pet snake for a while. You may observe that your pet snake is acting lethargic and inactive. When a snake is in brumation it will not eat for a long time. The snake will hide somewhere for a long time and stays still throughout that period. It will stop eating, and lower their breathing and body temperatures. Sooner or later they will seek for water to keep them hydrated so make sure to provide your snake with enough water available while it is in brumation.  

Do Pet Snakes Need To Brumate/Hibernate?

Whether pet snakes need to hibernate depends on the climate of the place it belongs to. It depends on the temperature of their habitat and how cold it gets. There are many snakes that do not brumate. These are usually from tropical regions such as South America. Temperatures like these places don’t lower much so it is not necessary for them to brumate.

Therefore, if you own a snake and you live in a colder region it is definite that your snake will brumate when it gets cold. This is an innate nature of all snakes so it is okay if your pet snake does need to brumate. Many reptiles don’t have to brumate when they are captive having their food and water sources coming automatically from you. But if they do seem to hibernate during the cold winters it is not a problem.

What Is The Difference Between Brumation And Hibernation?

Hibernation and brumation are quite similar in their meaning and purpose. Both of these processes mean keeping oneself safe from winter and cold weather. Both involve the dormancy of animals due to a drop in temperature and fewer daylight hours. In both cases, animals restore their energy and build up fat throughout the winter. But they do have some biological differences.

The differences between brumation and hibernation are:

  • Hibernation takes place in endothermic animals or warm-blooded animals while brumation occurs in cold-blooded animals or ectotherms like snakes and reptiles
  • Hibernation is defined by a deliberate reduction of body temperature while brumation does not involve the lowering of temperature
  • Animals that hibernate sleep throughout winter but snakes that brumate do not sleep but remain inactive
  • Animals can go without food and water through hibernation but snakes will need water when brumating
  • Brumating animals can tolerate low oxygen levels, as turtles can brumate underwater but hibernating animals cannot

What To Do When Pet Snakes Hibernate?

When your pet snake hibernates, it means it is getting cold outside and they start to find a hiding spot, either in a closed space, underwater, or even under the ground. Snakes look for places where they are safe to remain dormant for a long time. When this happens, it is naturally better to leave them that way. It is sometimes suggested to regulate your temperature especially if the snake is captive and locked inside an enclosure.

As the snake will stop eating during brumation you should keep water available for hydrating itself. In most cases, snakes that are kept captive do not need to brumate. But when they do they will surely need a place to brumate or hibernate.

What Happens When A Snake Gets Too Cold?

When your snake goes into brumation you must know that is getting cold and this needs to be regulated as the temperature may be too low. When this happens snakes will do the following things:

  • Find a place to warm-up such as bask in the heat or burrow
  • Regurgitates or vomits as it is too hard to digest its food
  • Undergoes anorexia which again hinders its digesting process
  • Becomes lethargic
  • May become sick and its immune system does not work properly
  • In the worst case, your snake may die

Do Snakes Eat When They Hibernate?

The answer is, no, snakes do not eat during hibernation/brumation. During brumation, snakes will lay still in one particular spot, usually hidden places, and stay there for a long time without eating. They avoid eating at this time as they cannot digest their food when they are in brumation. Sometimes they may need to find water but need to rest again. Often, snakes can sense the temperature is falling before winter comes and tends to eat more to keep their body fats in control and hence keep themselves warmer. But during the period of brumation, they avoid eating completely. They need to be hydrated once in a while.

At What Temperature Do Snakes Hibernate?

Snakes hibernate during winter when the temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They are usually active in the range of 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Snakes will detect clues of falling temperatures when days become smaller and the sun is out a little less than before. This makes them know that it is time for brumation.

During brumation, the snake controls its body temperature as well as its breathing so that they don’t need to move or feel cold as long as they are hidden away in its safe hiding place. Some reptiles hibernate underwater or burrowed under the ground for a certain period of time. Ectotherms will hibernate for a long time during winter cold spells but wake in between when the days are warmer and might relocate themselves when the temperature starts to fall again.

Can You Stop Brumation?

Brumation is a natural process and snakes will unknowingly want to go into brumation when temperatures fall in your area. You cannot stop it to happen but you can support your pet snake by hydrating it with water available throughout this duration of brumation. It is better not to stop it from brumation and it is not harmful to your pet either.

Is Hibernation Like Coma?

Hibernation is said to be a state where a snake where the body temperature, metabolism, and breathing rate drops in your reptile pet. Therefore, you could say it is like a coma. During this coma period, the snake stops eating or drinking sometimes unless it gets dehydrated. It looks like it was lying dead and immobile, which is why it seems to many it is under a coma! Before the winter comes the snake will eat more food and store fat in their bodies as stored energy. This energy is stored and consumed throughout the brumation in winter. Part of this energy is used to rise from hibernation to give a fresh start for the animal.

Is Hibernation Just Sleeping?

No, hibernation is not just sleeping but restoring energy and oxygen in the animal’s body for saving throughout the winter period. When pet snakes hibernate or brumate they don’t move or hardly breathe which often is mistaken as dying or very sick. Many owners might think the pet snake should be rushed to the clinic, but that is not the case.

So, it is best to observe your pet snake for a while before you come to any conclusions. Hibernation is often considered deep sleep but actually, it’s not. It is more like a suspended animation as it is called sometimes. The brain does not rest during hibernation-like when an animal is sleeping but the body activity is suppressed only.

How Long Does Hibernation Last?

Hibernation is a sustained period of dropping body temperature, metabolism, and breathing and this continues for quite a long period depending on the snakes’ surrounding temperature. Hibernation can last for a period of days, weeks, or even months depending on the species as well. All animals have a different period of time they need to hibernate. Groundhogs are the most common ones to hibernate along with bears.

Snakes, on the other hand, brumate which is similar but the difference is they are cold-blooded animals, unlike bears. Snakes will brumate throughout the winter as long as it is cold and under 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside. As soon as the temperature starts changing, they will come out of their brumation.


If you find your snake is not behaving the way it used to or seems inactive for a period of time then you must be aware that it is time for it to Brumate or Hibernate as it is known in general. After observing, you can definitely tell whether your snake is in brumation or actually falling ill. The best way to guess is to note the temperature of the surrounding where your snake is dwelling.

Another thing is that the snake will find a hiding spot before it goes into brumation just like bears find themselves a cave. After that, the snake will spend hours lying motionless with a low heart rate and temperature. It will stop eating as it cannot digest food in this state. The whole idea of hibernating or brumating is to store energy with the proper control over temperature and breathing. After this period is over, they will become active again and come out of their hiding.

As an owner, you need to make sure your pet snake is in the right surrounding or temperature so it can be uninterrupted.

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