Do snakes hibernate? Technically, no. They brumate.
Reptiles usually begin brumation in late fall. Imagine our surprise when Michael Powell and I flushed three Eastern Gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) as we walked through deep piles of leaf litter in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 November 2015!
Mike spotted the first snake; we could hardly see it, well-hidden under the leaves on the ground. The second snake was clearly visible, albeit briefly, when it fled for the safety of another leaf pile. The third snake (shown below) slithered out from undercover; when the snake saw us, it froze and remained motionless for several minutes — a survival strategy sometimes used by snakes when they feel threatened. I estimate the snake is 2.5 – 3.0 feet in length.
Eastern Gartersnakes can be differentiated from Common Ribbonsnakes (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) by the presence of “dark vertical lines on the supralabial scales.” This key characteristic is shown clearly in the following photo.
The following photo shows Mike crouching near the same Eastern Gartersnake, shooting some up close and personal photographs using a 180mm macro lens.
This is the last photo I shot before the snake took off like a rocket, headed for the safety of a nearby ditch.
Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.