It feels like we are about halfway through our Alberta winter, a January thaw has given us a break from cold and snow and Canada’s weather predicting mammals are conflicted as to whether we will see an early spring or not. We’ve talked about who is sleeping and where, but when will our hibernators come out again? Do they all wake up at once? What do they typically do when they wake up – besides stretch?
This is part four of a six part series on hibernators. You can find the first three parts on bears, bats and amphibians here.
For those cold-blooded reptiles that call Alberta home, our winters are the perfect opportunity to slow their breathing and fall into a deep, deep sleep. Located mostly in the south of the province, the types of reptiles found here are few – only seven snake, one lizard and one turtle species.
Into the Snake’s Den
Prairie rattlesnakes, western hog-nosed snakes, bull snakes, yellow-bellied racers and three species of garter snakes: plains, wandering and red-sided can be found in Alberta. Only the wandering garter snake and the red-sided garter snake are found outside of southern Alberta.
Not all snakes winter in the same places. What makes the best winter home? In most cases, lots of friends and an underground den, or hibernacula, are ideal. Snake dens are usually located in rock crevices or caves, or small mammal burrows. The temperatures within hibernacula remain just above freezing during the winter because of the insulating effects of the earth. Continue reading →