Snakes in Texas don’t hibernate-at least like many people think of hibernation.
I have heard of several serpentine encounters in recent weeks and even had some dealings with a big coral snake myself.
Snakes (as well as turtles and alligators) will come out when the sun shines and the temperatures warm up a bit during winter. Certain snakes however will come out even when it’s surprisingly cold.When I was a kid, we had a deer lease in the Gilbert Woods near Fannett, TX and always saw cottonmouths well into December and it did not necessarily have to be very warm.
We saw cottonmouths when temperatures were in the lower 40s on days with lots of sunshine.
A few years ago, I shot a nice eight-point buck on the Sabine River bottoms and as my friend Todd Jurasek and I were carrying it across a puddle in the road, I looked down and saw a young cottonmouth. By that point, the temperature had dipped down to 38.
Jurasek is a reptile expert who has traveled as far as New Guinea in search of reptiles and he said snakes do not hibernate in the way we think the do.
“Snake will definitely come out during the winter. They are not true hibernators like some mammals like bears for example. When it’s been warm for a couple of days and sunny they will come out to enjoy the heat and sometimes will see them in the evenings when it cools down sort of frozen because they can’t move around well,” he said.
Jurasek warns however, that does not mean they are not potentially dangerous.
“There have been instances of people getting bitten in the winter. If a snake is active enough to be out, they are active enough to bite. It’s just not likely.”
He recommends people exercise caution on warm winter afternoons when navigating open areas in river bottoms where the sun’s rays peak through and in rocky areas.
“Rocks retain heat pretty good and you will see rattlers out in Texas quite a bit on warm winter days. They aren’t very active but again active enough to warrant caution,” Jurasek said.
A few years back, I caught a huge cottonmouth on Lake Road in Bridge City, TX on a day when the temperature was in the mid-40s. I moved it to a spot where the snake was not likely to get in trouble with the people fishing just 40 yards away.
As usual, cold weather snakes probably won’t hurt you but it is best to be cautious.
Chester Moore, Jr.