There are many interesting facts to learn about snakes in Australia. Did you know, for example that that there are 181 species (including sub-species) of snakes that live on the land here and 33 species of sea and fresh water snakes? This number will no doubt continue to grow as new species are still being discovered.
We can confirm that around 100 species of these snakes are venomous. Interestingly though of those only 12 have a bite that can kill a person. Most of us have heard of the taipan, brown snake, king brown snake (mulga), the death adder, and of course the tiger snake.
It is true that mammals and birds can naturally regulate their body temperature. Snakes cannot. They are what is called ectothermic animals. Another word would be reptiles. They need external heat sources to warm their bodies. It has been shown that the level of activity of all reptiles is in direct relation to the temperature of the ground and the air in which they live.
This is why they tend to gravitate to the warmth of the sun and will lay out in the open. You may also stumble across them or near warm rocks and surfaces when the sun begins to set. During the night they will generally go to ground and under cover where it is warmer, this is especially true as the temperatures start to drop.
So, all this is pointing to the fact that when it becomes colder, snakes will become less active. This is definitely the case, especially where there are no external heat sources available. So with this in mind, it would be okay (and perfectly natural) to wonder what happens to snakes during the winter season. Do they perhaps hibernate?
Snakes Brumate during Winter Season
Snakes will always try to warm their bodies, but if the climate becomes too cold, they will brumate. So what does that mean? It is a lethargic state which looks a bit like hibernation, but not exactly! They become lethargic and move very little and will remain in areas near whatever heat source they can find. Then they will become active again when the temperature starts to rise. So slow and lethargic when it is cold and more active when the sun shines and the temperature is higher. Of course, in Queensland the temperature can fluctuate daily during the winter season. This is true especially along the coastline, if it becomes warm enough, snakes will venture out on warm days to bask in the sun and to look for food.
Where the snakes find themselves in an area where the temperature is persistently low, the metabolism of snakes will slow down. This is when they will brumate. They will use up stored fat to survive throughout the cold spell until warmer months return. In Australia, snakes don’t properly brumate, they reach a semi-dormant state if it is not too cold and there are heat sources available to them. That is why on warmer days during the winter season snakes sightings increase.
There is no denying that warmer weather has been experienced in recent years in Australia. Without getting into any environmental discussions this is believed to be the effects of global warming. These statistics suggest that snakes have become more active throughout the year. This would make sense of course as their activity levels are tied to the temperature and the climate. Because native snake species are protected, snakes that are discovered on a person’s property must be removed by non-lethal methods, so as not to harm them. Snakes must be released within 24 hours after capture at a suitable location not too far from the area they were caught. Snakes are not territorial, instead they have a roaming range which differs in size with each species.
If you discover a snake on your property, stay calm, don’t panic, keep an eye on it (if possible) from a safe distance and call Pat Lazzaro at A1 Snake Relocations on 0407129260 (or your local licensed and registered catcher). Pat has been relocating snakes for a number of years and is actively involved in wildlife rescue and mentoring for a number of charitable organisations across South East Queensland. Pat has a large network and team ensuring a fast response should the snake require relocating. His knowledge and experience are such that both you and the snake are in extremely safe capable hands!