The autumnal equinox, or the first day of fall, is today! It’s a time when birds have already begun their gradual migrations to southerly, warmer lands, and our black bear is undergoing hyperphagia, a process of eating as much as possible to build fat reserves for winter survival. One has to wonder if the fall season affects other organisms, such as rattlesnakes, in any similar way.
We know that in August, some rattlesnakes begin producing babies and also breeding in order to set up baby production for the next August. With this process overlapping into September, those snakes not involved with reproduction, like females that have already given birth and other non-breeding females, and males not breeding this year, will begin to step up their fall season food search in order to increase fat stores in advance of winter. The fall season feeding binge is also necessary to ensure future baby production, occurring every year and a half to two years. This feeding process helps all rattlesnakes get through winter hibernation underground by maintaining body health, and while the focus on feeding goes on, rattlesnakes are also gradually moving to denning locations in which hibernation takes place, locations sometimes used every winter. They must be in place to hibernate by early November to avoid freezing.
Fall is a busy time for all snake species, even those which produce babies in the spring ahead of the rattlesnake’s schedule. The earlier breeding and reproduction still means that the fall season drives snakes to feed well and gradually begin to orient their movements to areas where hibernation takes place, just like the rattlesnakes do.
Since snakes are active during the fall season, be sure to check out our snake safety tips guide.
Written by Bryon Shipley
Prairie Rattlesnake, Adaptation
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Adaptation Environmental Team: Bryon, Joe, and Kelly