March 26, 2010

Reptiles Emerging

By Michael Dreslik

As the winter weather fades away and temperatures begin to rise during spring, reptiles awaken from their winter slumber. For many that spend the cold winter underground, it will take many days of sun to warm their blood. Being cold blooded, a reptile’s physiology depends on heat, the warmer they are the faster they can escape predators, catch a meal, and even digest. The first few days of warm weather, reptiles will be somewhat reluctant to venture from their safe haven and may only peer from the shelter of their winter retreat.

During the cool, early spring weather, reptiles are sluggish and vulnerable to a myriad of predators looking for an easy meal so it is important to have a retreat safely at claw. When they do decide to crawl or slither out, they remain nearby their winter retreat and shuttle above and below ground with the rise and fall of the temperature or dive for their retreat if danger lurks. Some species, such as garter snakes, will emerge quickly and begin mating en masse whereas others such as turtles will take longer awaken. Slowly, they will creep out of their winter torpor and begin to bask in the sun’s warmth. As overnight temperatures eventually warm near the middle to end of spring, reptiles will finally venture away from their winter retreat and begin a sojourn for the necessities of life, foraging, growing, and reproducing, returning to their burrows only with the cool fall weather.

Massasauga hiding in the grass

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