Regarding how long a snake can go without heat depends on the snake species, but because a snake can’t produce body heat, in captivity it relies on a constant supply of artificial heat and light.
How Long can a Snake go Without Heat
Snakes are reptiles and this group of animals, of which crocodiles, turtles and lizards are a part, are cold-blooded or they’re known as ectotherms. These are animals they don’t produce their own body heat.
Snakes rely on external sources of heat to support their bodily functions. They also need less energy to survive and they can go for long periods without food.
Snakes also Need to Cool Off
Even though snakes are cold-blooded, they don’t only require heat- they also require cooling down. In the wilds or in captivity, snakes require both heat and cool conditions to allow them to warm up and cool down as needed. They like to slither out onto a warm rock and bask in the sunshine, and then retreat into a cave or even under sand to cool down.
Winter Heralds a Slower Metabolism
When Winter approaches, some birds and animals move away to seek out warmer areas. A snake can’t fly to another country so it will go into hibernation.
The snake becomes less active during cold weather. It is actually known as brumation rather than hibernation. It’s a slowing down of the snake’s metabolism. The snake is lethargic and doesn’t move around much.
Cold-blooded creatures like this spend the Winter inactive as they have no means to keep warm. They increase their food intake before brumation occurs to tide them over this inactive period.
A snake that is kept as a pet and placed into a cold enclosure can quickly lose body weight and become cold. They search for a basking spot or they try to retreat into a ‘cave’, and if these aren’t provided for them, they rapidly lose body heat. They become colder and colder and will simply die.
A snake that thrives in hot desert temperatures or a snake that loves humid, steamy jungles will die quickly in cool temperatures.
The Sidewinder – Loves Hot Desert Conditions
One snake that wouldn’t do well in the cold is the Sidewinder Snake. This is a snake which is native to deserts of the south-western U.S. and north-western Mexico.
They slither diagonally, moving quickly over the desert sand. Even these snakes – if they find that the temperatures get particularly high, they have learned to ‘adapt or die’. They become more nocturnal, becoming less active during the heat of the day.
Some Interesting Facts of Being a Cold-Blooded Reptile
- Snakes don’t generate body heat and they therefore don’t need to eat as much food as mammals.
- A snake’s body temperature changes to the temperature of its surroundings. They can’t however survive in places where it is freezing, so you won’t find snakes in the Antarctica.
- An advantage with being a cold-blooded snake is that these serpents battle less with bacteria. This is because bacteria thrives in warmth and snakes, and being cold-blooded, they are less like to battle with bacteria and infections.
- Because a snake relies on the sun’s heat, they are more sluggish in the morning and evening. These are times that make them an easier target for predators.
- If you keep a snake as a pet, you will need to provide the snake with a source of warmth as well as a cool side to the enclosure. This is so it can regulate its temperature. Failing to do this can cause your snake-pet to become stressed, depressed and ill. In the enclosure you will need to look at snake accessories such as heat lamps and heat mats. Aiicioo brings out excellent pet products and their ceramic heat lamp creates a natural sun-like heat with no light. Infrared light also promotes healthy scales and skin.
- You will need to monitor the temperature in the enclosure making use of a special snake enclosure thermometer.
Do you turn Snakes Heat Lamps off at Night?
No, with temperatures dropping at night, heat lamps should be kept on at night. When bright lights are off , there still needs to be night-time heat without lights distracting them. Heat bulbs come in a host of different wattages for proper night time temperatures.
A Cold Snake is a Sick Snake
If a snake lived in the wilds where there was very little sun, it wouldn’t do well. As suggested, snakes can’t produce their own body heat, and heat is imperative for their digestion too. In fact if a snake becomes too cold it isn’t able to metabolize its food properly and it can’t complete other bodily functions.
If snakes are forced to live in an area where there are constantly low temperatures, or the snake was kept in an enclosure where it was heat-deprived, it will make the snake miserable and sick. A snake can ‘catch a cold’ like a person, and respiratory infections can be fatal for a snake.
Temperatures Affect Behavior
Snakes are able to survive different temperatures, but it all depends on the snake species. Here are just a few temperature preferences of different snake species –
Basking Spot Temperature
Most snakes prefer a temperature range of between 70°F and 95°F. For a Python snake for instance, the daytime temperature of the enclosure should be between 83-87°F. To keep your snake comfortable at night, the temperature can be between 73-78°F. Be vigilant with your snake – high temperatures can also be bad for your snake as can freezing temperatures.
The activity of snakes certainly depends on temperature. In a country like Australia for instance, the continent is experiencing warmer weather – thought to be because of global warming – and snakes are becoming more active.
With global warming, other countries are also seeing the activity levels of snakes increasing. The snakes, where once unseen, are now being found in homes and gardens. Speak to any snake expert and you will find that this is no reason for alarm. Snakes should never be killed, but rather a snake expert called to remove them. After all, they have a vital role in the order of things on this planet.
Temperatures – a Large Role in a Snakes Behavior
Snakes go into hiding when temperatures plummet and to cooler places when temperatures rise. Also, an interesting aspect is that it has been observed that the amount of food consumed by snakes depends on the temperature too and that temperature has a close connection to the susceptibility to disease. It has been researched and found that death rates with snakes often occur after a particularly bad cold snap The dead snakes were then checked over and found to have symptoms of lung problems.
Snakes are robust and they can do fine in cold weather – but only for a while. A snake that thrives in dry, hot Summers won’t do well in in Wintry, damp conditions.
Just like people can get hypothermia when they’re out in the cold and their body temperature drops too low, a snake can become hypothermic too. A snake that is kept in a cold, damp enclosure for instance can suffer with respiratory infections or even battle with scale rot. This disease can come about because of overly moist, cold enclosures, and because the snake’s immune system is compromised, vitamin deficiencies can also occur.
If you think that your snake is too cold, start by allowing it to thaw in some warm water. Put a large bowl into the enclosure with warm water and allow your snake to thaw for 20 minutes or so.
Check out heating accessories such as heat pads, heat tape or heating globes – all of which need to be regulated with a thermostat, and checked regularly.
A Weakened Immune System
A snake falls prey to illness because in the cold, and without warmth, the immune system is weakened. The weakened immune system encourages bacteria, whether a snake is out in the wilds or in captivity. Some people fail to recognize the symptoms of a cold snake, and then it twists and turns and became jerky. At this stage it may be too late for the snake to warm up.
Hypothermic snakes become less active and they stop eating and drinking, becoming hydrated and losing weight. Many snakes stop shedding too.
What does Your Pet Snake Prefer?
With a captive snake, the owner should immediately test the temperature within the enclosure and then compare this to what the snake species prefers. The speed at which a snake becomes hypothermic depends on how low the temperature is. If the temperature is far below the required range, snakes can quickly succumb to hypothermia.
Death with a Cold Snake can be Swift
If you leave a snake in freezing temperatures without providing it with any kind of warmth, it can be dead by the next morning. If you have unwittingly allowed your snake to become too cold and you are concerned about it’s health, have it checked out by a veterinarian.
It may be that your snake has deteriorated to such an extent that it will require antibiotics and fluids.
To avoid hypothermia with a captive snake, do research on snakes and the environmental conditions they require to do well. Reptile pet owners need to maintain a constant temperature in the enclosure, regardless of the seasons. It is only when a snake has an enclosure which replicates its natural habitat that it can thrive.