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A note about head shape in snakes: Head shape is a totally useless character for identifying a snake, and has nothing to do with whether the serpent is or is not venomous (poisonous). Many harmless snakes, especially when young, have rather large heads. Please describe color, pattern, markings, and habitat where the snake was found. The shape of the head will not help us in any way.
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Re: where do snakes go in winter?
Posted by Alex, forum owner on December 9, 2004, 7:32 pm, in reply to "Re: where do snakes go in winter?"
: : That was a perfect amount of
: information! Thanks for responding so
: promptly. I figured that they do go
: underground but now I know there is
: more to it than just burrowing a hole!
: And no worries about notifying anyone
: of den sites. I am a firm believer we
: are to live in harmony not fear.
: Thanks again.
: --Previous Message--
: --Previous Message--
: I live in far northeastern Tennessee
: (Greeneville) upon Bald Mountain which
: is 5 minutes from the AT trail and NC
: border. I have seen ringnecks and
: copperheads around my cabin. All of
: which I leave alone and let them be on
: their way. But I wondered if snakes
: hibernate during winter? I havent seen
: any of late. Thanks in advance for
: your response. By the way, great site
: and have enjoyed reading past posts.
: Hi, and thanks for the question. In our
: neck of the woods (I live not far from
: you, in Western NC) they do go in for
: the winter. Some call it hibernation,
: my Herpetology (study of Reptiles and
: Amphibians) called it "going
: torpid", and some call it
: Whatever you call it, they do indeed do
: it, and most begin to go to den sites
: (called in the literature
: "hibernaculae) in late September.
: Some, like the Garter, are the latest
: to go in and the earliest to go out;
: Garters have been seen crossing snow
: banks near Boone NC in late April
: (personal communication, Joseph
: Williams). I have seen Black Rat Snakes
: out in November, but by now, everybody
: is holed up in a cave, old Chipmunk
: burrow, a hole where tree roots have
: rotted after it died, or a rock pile,
: anywhere that is deep enough to be
: below the freeze line (around here
: about 1 foot), and their bodies will
: stay at about the ambient temperature
: of the den, and there they will stay
: until the air warms up in Spring.
: The picking of a good den site is
: critical, as they are
: "ectothermic" (what we
: wrongly call "cold blooded"),
: and their body temperature stays at the
: temperature of their surroundings
: unless they can get in the sun or on a
: warm rock and heat up their blood. When
: air temps get under about 45 degrees,
: all their systems go into slow motion,
: and below about 30 degrees, most will
: die(except for Wood Frogs, of course,
: who have anti-freeze iin their blood).
: The denning site will ideally have a
: constant temperature of around 45 to 50
: degrees, enough air flow to keep them
: oxygenated in their torpid state, and
: cool enough to keep their metabolism
: just ticking over; if it gets too warm
: too much, they can burn up all their
: fat reserves and die, essentiallly of
: There are some famous denning sites in
: some states that can have hundreds of
: snakes of many species in them, some
: which will eat other snakes, but nobody
: is in the mood to eat, so the prey
: species are safe - until Spring.
: There is a denning site of Garter
: Snakes in Canada which is famous for
: the number of Garters that go there,
: and for the breeding balls (the males
: ball up on the females) that occur each
: spring when the snakes emerge. It seems
: to be in the news every spring. The
: snakes tend to come into the high
: school basement to try to hibernate
: (too warm), so the school has built a
: denning site for them, and move them
: there when they end up in the basement.
: Sorry; hope this wasn't too much info.
: If you see a snake moving through in
: September or October, sometimes you can
: follow it and find the den; just don't
: tell anybody. Some of the folks around
: here will go to a snake den and kill
: every snake there...
: Thanks for writing, and thanks for not
: killing the snakes. Thank you very much
: for that!
Ah, I am glad to help.
Most snakes are unable to burrow, so use other folks' burrows. A couple of exceptions are the Hognose Snake, and maybe the Mole Kingsnake. The Hognose has a little upturned "pig snout" it uses to burrow.