Many keepers of pet reptiles debate whether or not they should replicate environmental conditions to encourage their pets to hibernate during winter months. In some instances it is necessary to duplicate, as closely as possible, your pets’ natural environmental conditions, especially if you are planning to breed them. In other instances, your pets will instinctively sense the time to hibernate and more or less do so on their own. There are, however, differences in seasonal behaviors that should be understood before manipulating an animal’s external environment. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering whether or not to hibernate pet reptiles.
What is Hibernation?
Hibernation is what we first think of when we think of animals becoming seasonally inactive. It is characterized by several physiological conditions such as decreased body temperature, reduced metabolic rate and slowed breathing. It generally occurs during the winter months when food sources are scarce, and is actually a way for animals to continue to live when normal consciousness and activity would not have allowed survival.
What is Estivation?
Estivation is also a condition characterized by lowered metabolic rate or physiological dormancy. In contrast to hibernation, however, estivation is brought on by severe heat and arid conditions. Many invertebrates as well as some vertebrate animals enter a state of estivation in order to avoid desiccation during the summer months in desert-like climates.
What is Torpor?
Torpor is similar to hibernation in that it is characterized by reduced body temperature and metabolic function during winter months. However, torpor is generally more short-lived than hibernation and is often experienced only during parts of a day. For instance, some birds and mammals enter a state of torpor at night during the winter months as a way of conserving energy.
What types of pets should be allowed to hibernate?
Many species of turtles and snakes would normally hibernate in the wild. If you choose to hibernate pet reptiles, care must be taken to maintain the correct temperature and humidity requirements for an extended length of time. It can be dangerous for the health of your pet if conditions are allowed to fluctuate or if not managed correctly. For instance, for most turtles, a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit is too warm for them to hibernate, yet too cold for them to eat. Keeping a turtle at this temperature for an extended period of time will almost certainly result in its death.
Other precautions to hibernate pet reptiles
Even if you do hibernate pet reptiles, you should be sure fresh water is always available. It is not uncommon for a hibernating animal to become active for a brief period of time during the winter, and although they will not need to eat, they should always have water available. Also, many reptiles don’t enter a state of true hibernation, so it is important to continue to monitor their behavior and begin feeding again if activity resumes for more than a couple of days at a time.