Brumation is not a true hibernation during prolonged periods of low temperature, but rather a state of sluggish inactivity that allows reptiles to conserve energy until better weather arrives.
It is important to note that brumation is not always necessary to replicate in captivity. This state should not be an automatic answer for nonfeeding hognose. Please see, “So Your Hognose Isn’t Feeding?” for a more in-depth troubleshoot. Brumation also isn’t necessary in order to successfully breed Western Hognose snakes. This guide exists because even though we have bred hognose without brumation, we at Ectotherm Empire still prefer to go through this period every winter anyway. Because so many people ask about this event we figured it was best to briefly go over the process we go through. Just as with all our other guides, this one is not foolproof and so it may not work for everyone. Our advice is just that... advice.
II. Preparation- It is best to enter this situation with a plan, rather than scrambling to figure it out last minute.
A. Have a location planned out. Whether it be a cold room, a wine cooler, or a custom-built cooler of sorts, make sure it can maintain at least relatively stable temperatures. Too much fluctuation can influence how your animals handle brumation. Too many higher temperature fluctuations could make your animal more active and potentially cause greater weight loss during this period of nonfeeding, for example. While in the wild the temperature can fluctuate drastically, these snakes are also fossorial and remain primarily in areas where the fluctuations are far more gradual (underground in burrows). We prefer the use of wine coolers, and the specific model will be listed in our Recommended Equipment/Materials section.
B. Cease all feeding activity at least two weeks prior to the date when you plan on decreasing temperatures. Preemptively dropping temperatures before allowing digestion to complete can potentially cause infections, regurgitations, or create a situation where material is rotting in the digestive tract rather than being digested.
III. Temperature Drops
A. Place the hognose in a container equal to around the size of a hide you would provide them. The key is to maintain the feeling of security. There is no need for a large amount of space as the snake will be largely inactive during this time period.
B. For two weeks we keep our Western Hognose at around 60°F (15.56°C) before dropping the temperatures further. The moment they enter the cooler is the start of our brumation.
C. For another two months we maintain 56°F (13.33°C). While temperatures can be dropped lower, we don’t personally feel a need to.
IV. Weekly Checks
A. Make sure to monitor the status of your hognose. Feel free to take them out of their containers while you check the bedding. If soiled, clean and replace.
B. Offer water. We do not keep water in with our snakes during this time. As everyone with hognose knows, they like to dig and knock over water bowls. Snakes exposed to wet and cold conditions run a greater risk of developing respiratory infections and so we’ve learned over time that it’s safest just to offer water weekly. You can always offer more frequently, if desired.
C. Make these checks short. The point is to make sure the animal is alive and as healthy as can be, given the situation, without disrupting the brumation process too much.
V. Return to Normal!
A. Return your snakes to their normal enclosures and heat. There is no need to reintroduce or increase temperatures gradually.
B. Offer a small meal 3-5 days later. We usually offer sub-adults and males pinkies, while the larger females typically receive a fuzzie mouse instead of their normal adult or weaned. While temperatures don’t have to be gradual, a return to feeding should be. Rebooting the digestive system can be a bit stressful and take a little longer to get going so it’s always best to start back up slowly.
As the owner and primary customer service associate for Ectotherm Empire I frequently handle questions about Hognose care. People want to learn and generally want to do what is best for their animals. I don't profess to know everything. There is no way to do so. What I've done is taken my experience working with these animals, my research and understanding into their lives in the natural world, and combined it with help from fellow breeders to construct a relatively comprehensive set of documents. Yes, some things may be missing, or may not fit your situation, but I've done my best to aid in what ways I can. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Comparing products by their features, customer reviews, and prices is easy, however, Amazon was chosen almost entirely for uniformity. Nearly everything we use can be found on Amazon. If it can't be, then substitutes are almost always available. All product links in these guides will be found in this color. Thank you for taking the time to look through my wordy ramblings and I wish you happy reading!