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Do Corn Snakes Hibernate?

Corn snakes are cold-blooded creatures that require heat to stay active and healthy. They usually require a good warm place to stay active in winter as extremely cold temperatures can affect their health. As a beginner hobbyist, you may wonder if your corn snakes can hibernate.

Generally, corn snakes don’t hibernate but brumate. They usually go brumating for a few weeks during the cold winter months, and most corn snakes can brumate for about 2 months. Brumation is like hibernation, but it occurs due to a shortage of daylight during the winter months.

In this article, we will highlight everything you need to know about corn snakes’ hibernation, from the difference between brumation and hibernation to whether pet snakes can hibernate.

Do Corn Snakes Hibernate?

Corn snakes don’t hibernate
Corn snakes don’t hibernate

No, Corn snakes don’t hibernate, instead, they brumate. They can brumate in the wild naturally but will require help from their owner in captivity. However, Corn snakes don’t really need to brumate in captivity because their source of heat, light, food, and water are controlled artificially.

Although corn snakes cannot brumate in captivity, many pet owners can stimulate brumation in their pets by simulating the winter temperatures.

Do All Snakes Hibernate/Brumation? If not, how is it different?

The table below will show a breakdown of snake species that can hibernate and those that brumate.

Snakes species that hibernateSnakes species is in Brumation
Black Rat SnakeCorn snakes
KingsnakeRinkhals
Pine snakesKingsnakes
Vipera BerusRattlesnakes
Blue RacerMilk snake
Caspian Whipsnake
Copperheads
Dice snakes
Eyelash Viper
Garter snakes
Four-Lined Snake
Grass snakes
Hognose

Differences Between Hibernation and Brumation

Although hibernation and brumation are interchanged, they have a wide range of differences. Some of the differences between hibernation and brumation are stated below.

Corn snake is brumating
Corn snake is brumating

What is Hibernation?

Hibernation is when animals lower their body temperature, slow their breathing and heartbeats, and use little to no energy. During hibernation, the animal will not wake up, urinate, defecate, eat, or drink.

An animal can hibernate for a long time as they depend on the stored fats to help maintain necessary body function and keep them warm during the hibernation season. Furthermore, brumation is common in mammals.

What is Brumation?

Brumation is when cold-blooded animals shut down and conserve their energy during cold weather. During brumation, your reptile may not drink, eat, defecate, or be active for several weeks. However, brumating reptiles will still need to drink water.

Brumation period in reptiles can start between September to December, while it can also last until March or April, based on the weather.

As you can see, the main difference between brumation, and hibernation is that the reptile does not need the same amount of sleep as in hibernation. Reptiles can still wake and forage for food and water during the brumation period.

Furthermore, snakes can come out of brumation if the weather is warm, even during winter.

Do Pet Snakes Brumate in Captivity?

No and Yes. Whether your pet snake will brumate in captivity will depend on the type of habitat in which you house them. In the wild, corn snakes brumate to survive harsh weather. Therefore, your corn snake can brumate to survive if you house them in a harsh winter-like environment.

Note: corn snakes can function normally throughout the winter period without brumating in their native habitats. This is because temperatures don’t usually drop too low to go into brumation.

When Do Pet Snakes Brumate in Captivity

Although pet snakes don’t usually brumate in captivity as their temperature and light are controlled artificially. Some of the reasons for your pet snakes to brumate in captivity are stated below:

  • You did not maintain a warm temperature in your snake’s enclosure during the winter period.
  • You reduce the temperature in their enclosure to encourage brumation. This is a good idea if your pet snakes go into brumation every year on their own or to prepare your snake for breeding.
Brumating corn snakes helps increase their breeding
Brumating corn snakes helps increase their breeding

Pros and Cons of Corn Snakes Brumation in Captivity.

Here are some pros and cons of brumating your corn snakes in captivity.

Pros:

Brumating your corn snakes helps increase their breeding chance during the colder weather. It will help improve the male corn snake’s chance of producing more sperm and sex hormones. Therefore, it is common for your corn snakes to seek a mate when coming out of brumation.

However, you should keep in mind that snakes can also mate without having to go into brumation.

Another benefit of brumating your corn snake is that it gives your snake’s body a break from digestion and activity, making it live longer and healthier.

Cons:

Brumating snakes in a simulated environment can be quite dangerous, and your snake can die if you make a mistake.

Furthermore, the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition states that brumating your corn snake with waste in its digestive system can lead to intestinal impaction, which can be fatal to them.

Brumating your corn snakes for too long can have fatal physical effects on the snake. Brumation is usually done only for mature adult corn snakes.

How to Brumate a Corn Snake

Only brumate with healthy corn snakes.
Only brumate with healthy corn snakes

Before you try to brumate a corn snake, you need to ensure it is in very good health. This is because allowing an unhealthy corn snake to go into brumation can be fatal to the snake.

Brumation cycle for a corn snake usually lasts for several weeks, and it starts in the Fall when the daylight hours and temperature start to reduce. Your corn snake will slow down their activity level when it gets cold in its enclosure.

Note: corn snake brumation cycle should last between six and eight weeks. You need to avoid feeding your corn snake for several weeks before it enters brumation.

Preparing Your Snake Before Brumation

It is important to note that brumation should only be done for mature and healthy adult corn snakes. You can start the brumation process by feeding your corn snake more often than usual for a few weeks to give it extra fat and nutrition.

You will then stop feeding your corn snake once it is 2-3 weeks before brumation. Another thing is that you should ensure that your snake has poop after feeding and completely empty its gut before you start the brumation process.

You can then start the brumation process by reducing the temperature slowly over a few weeks until the temperature is at 65oF. Also, provide your snake with fresh water regularly.

Note

It is important for your snake’s health to remove all the waste in its gut before brumation.

During Brumation

Maintain a constant temperature and darkness while corn snake brumate. 
Maintain a constant temperature and darkness while corn snake brumate | Credit: luknaja / Canva.com

You can determine that your corn snakes are in brumation if it stops eating and their heart and respiratory rates are slow. Another thing is if the snakes have a reduced digestion rate. Some things you can do for your corn snakes during brumation are stated below.

  • Try to simulate less daylight by covering your snake’s vivarium with a towel to help avoid direct sunlight. You can also put your snake in a fairly dark room most of the time.
  • Ensure that the maximum temperature in the enclosure is 60oF. However, the ideal temperature for brumating your corn snake is 55oF.
  • Ensure your snake’s enclosure has at least 4 inches of substrate.
  • Make sure there is enough fresh water available for your corn snakes. You can clean their water bowl and refill it every day.

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Health Checks

  • Inspect your pet every day for signs of illness or disease.
  • Try to weigh your snake in its container weekly. Generally, your corn snake metabolism will slow down. However, your corn snake should not lose more than 10% of its body weight during brumation.
  • Reverse brumation and seek the help of an experienced reptile vet if you notice signs of illness or your snake loses too much weight.

When Should You Reverse Brumation?

It is recommended that you reverse your corn snake brumation before 12 weeks. However, you may need to reverse brumation if you notice signs of sickness in your snake or it loses weight excessively. You should warm your snake and bathe it while you call a vet.

To reverse brumation, increase the temperatures in your snake’s enclosure gradually until it gets to the ideal range within a week. You will also need to delay feeding your snake for 2-3 weeks to help ensure its system functions properly before feeding it.

How to Take Care of Corn Snake In The Winter

The best way to care for your corn snake in the winter is to ensure the temperature in their enclosure is at optimal range. This will help to ensure your corn snake stays active throughout the year and will not go into brumation to survive.

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FAQs

How long does brumation last in corn snakes?

Corn snakes can go for about 6-8 weeks in brumation based on the weather. Their brumation period usually starts from September to December, while some can last until March or April. However, snakes can come out of brumation if there is warm weather.

What temperature does a corn snake Brumate at?

The ideal temperature for a corn snake to brumate is between 55oF-60oF.

Can corn snakes live without heat?

Corn snakes are hardy creatures and can withstand harsh weather conditions. They are cold-blooded creatures and can only live for about 2-3 weeks without heat.

Conclusion

Corn snakes don’t usually go into hibernation but brumation during the colder months. Instead of sleeping through long periods, corn snakes just reduce their activity level and heartbeat. Corn snakes can easily go out of brumation once it senses warm weather.

Generally, corn snakes don’t really need to go into brumation in captivity to survive the winter month, and this is because the temperature in their enclosure is controlled artificially. However, you can simulate a cold weather environment to brumate your snake.

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