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Baby, it’s cold outside!

SNAKES IN WINTER – WHAT DO THEY DO WHEN IT GETS COLD?

As the weather in SEQ is starting to head closer to the ‘zero’ point on the thermometer, many ask where have all the snakes gone?

Heading into winter it is easy to see why Brisbanites could drop their guard thinking that all of the snakes are in hibernation.

Many people believe that snakes go into hiding in the colder, wintry weather. We are here to tell you that while snakes may seem to vanish from our sight, they do not disappear altogether.

It is a different story In the southern, colder parts of Australia. In places like Victoria or Tasmania, where temperatures fall more noticeably, snakes are often less active. Despite this though, they can be often found underground. Also hiding places like manmade structures, logs, hollows or other places can offer great opportunities for them. They can easily access shelter, sunlight and water as and when they want to. It is true that on cold days but sunny days, snakes will take the chance to bask in as much sunlight as possible before settling in for the night.

In SEQ, people do still report sighting of snakes and my services as a snake catcher are still needed, even in winter. Snakes can be found hiding in animal feed sheds or other places not frequently visited by humans. What can happen is that unexpectedly a log, part of a fence or other structure is moved. That is when you may come across to a snake taking shelter.

During winter, snakes do reduce their activity levels. They are likely to spend time in a semi-dormant state but can still have periods of activity.

In more northern parts of Australia, temperatures in the wet season can still be quite high. In these areas, the semi-dormant period for snakes is much shorter.

HIBERNATION or BRUMATION, CONFUSING A NATION

One of the questions that we get asked most often relates to whether snakes “hibernate” in winter. The number of people that are convinced that snakes sleep or hibernate right through Winter is astonishing. They really do believe that there are no snakes above ground in the colder months.

I am here to tell you that snakes do NOT “hibernate” in the same way mammals do. They do enter a semi-dormant state in Winter which is known as “brumation”.

It is like hibernation in many ways but has key differences. Reptiles still need to drink water or change places should their area become too disturbed. That means experiencing long and sustained periods of inactivity just would not work for them. Different species of snakes have different periods of brumation. These will depend very much upon their location, latitude and temperatures. Each of these environmental factors will have a different effect on the snakes altogether.

Of course snakes depend upon external sources for heat. That means that they will still be found seeking spots of sunlight where available even. This is true even during the colder months.

So brumation is a semi-dormancy that snakes demonstrate in the colder periods. It is not total hibernation. In some areas where the really cold weather lasts for longer, the latency period will be longer. In these circumstances, the snakes will likely as not remain dormant for longer.

In short, just because winter is very much upon us, that does not mean we should become complacent about snakes and the chances of seeing them. Regardless of the temperature, snakes can still be around and can bite if you are unfortunate enough to come across one. If you see a snake, do NOT attempt to handle or kill it.

Simply back away and move around it and make sure everyone with you does the same. If a snake is in or around your home, be sure to leave the room, make pets and children safe and close the doors.

  • Stay calm
  • Don’t panic
  • Keep your distance
  • No quick movements
  • Seal the room by closing the door
  • Place a towel under the door

You can call Pat Lazzaro who is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. His number is 0407 129 260 and he is happy to answer any questions you may have.

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