Why are our snakes a little more active, nowadays?
They are feasting before the big fast!
During winter they do not eat at all or if they do, very little. This explains why they are stuffing themselves now and why we are seeing them more often prior to winter. They are hunting to build up fat reserves and then they will be off to seek a suitable shelter for the cold months ahead. But some snakes, like pythons and Puff Adders, are actively busy with mating on the Highveld right into the middle of winter..
Our winters are not cold enough for snakes to hibernate and although they are far less active in winter, they may emerge from their winter hide-outs on a warm winter day to bask in the sun. Even when we have frost on the Highveld and temperatures drop well below zero, these snakes are relatively warm a meter or two underground where the temperature will not drop below 20 degrees C.
Hibernation has been described as an inherent, regular and prolonged period of inactivity during winter and the term ‘brumation’ is popularly used for reptiles. Snakes in cold regions of the world do hibernate and often in dens where hundreds or even thousands of snakes may share the same winter shelter.
With a dramatic drop in snake activity in winter, very few bites are reported and the majority of bites on humans are recorded in the warm summer months of January – April.
According to Professor Harry Greene, snakes consume between 6 – 30 meals per year and this is in summer. During winter they do not eat at all or if they do, very little. Because snakes are ectotherms and require no food for their heat requirements, they can survive with very little food and a large Puff Adder probably consumes less than 1 kg of food per year.
You will often see a rinkhals basking just outside its hole when a winters day warms up to around 23 degree Celsius.