What Happens When Reptiles Go Dormant?

Posted by Christy Caplan
Bearded Dragon

Have you heard the story about geckos falling out of trees in Florida because they were hibernating? The invasive species can become sluggish when the temperature drops below 50F and are susceptible to freezing once temperatures drop to around 40F. Geckos living in the tropics do not ever have to cope with cold temperatures, so they don't have to hibernate. Yet if it's cold, they sleep away the winter!

Most reptiles, such as snakes, leopard geckos, and bearded dragons, can sleep or hibernate in their enclosures. This is also known as brumation. Brumation is a dormant period for some reptiles

During the period of brumation, a reptile may not eat, drink, defecate, or move for several weeks. It may bury itself completely underground or go to the darkest, coolest part of its enclosure.

Which reptiles brumate? 

The Spruce Pets confirms that bearded dragons are the most common breed of reptile pets that brumate. Bearded dragons are very unpredictable and may brumate every year, never at all, for long periods of time, or on and off through a season. Other common reptiles that brumate include some kinds of turtles, tortoises, and snakes. Some amphibians, such as frogs, also brumate.​

Brumation is not a true sleep, and the reptile still needs to drink water. A brumating reptile may have days where it will wake, show some activity, drink water, and then go back to its dormant state.

What does brumation mean? 

Brumation is essential to the survival of some reptile species because they are incapable of raising their body temperature when the seasonal weather changes. 

During brumation, reptiles stop eating and their heart and respiratory rates slow significantly, as does their digestion.

This "suspended animation"-- long periods of inactivity -- may actually lengthen the lives of these reptiles. In a sense, they are being preserved during the cold season when they likely wouldn't survive in the elements.

How do you prepare your reptile for brumation?

Has your reptile had their yearly check-up? Make sure your reptile is in good health before they brumate. Reptiles Magazine explains this is a hard and fast rule.

"Reptiles must be in good health and have a good body weight before they enter hibernation. Sickly animals shouldn't undergo hibernation. They might not come out of it."

This brumation period is essential to ensure your reptile lives a long and happy life. Reptile brumation only happens with certain reptile species so make sure to research the list before assuming your reptile will go into hibernation. They will reach a hibernation-like state so make sure they are healthy before those colder months arrive.

Have you ever lived with a reptile? Please leave us a comment below! 

WATCH NOW: Why Pets Are the Best

oembed rumble video here

recommended for you

What Happens When Reptiles Go Dormant?