Forced Hibernation Experiment


Following my successful  hibernation experiments with Eastern Gartersnakes, I successfully force hibernated neonatal massasaugas for the past two winters increasing winter survival from less than 10% to more than 60%. Natural winter mortality is reduced by placing neonatal snakes in artificial burrows within habitat that does not freeze or flood completely.  Surviving massasaugas come back to where they successfully hibernated the previous winter, so we can estimate annual survival overtime.  For this reason specific location information is protected.

Winter 2016-17


This was  our first test of the forced hibernation technique on neonatal massasaugas. Conditions underground were drier than the past 2 winters due to  a prolonged summer drought. After 170 days in an artificial burrow  90 % survived. 

Winter 2017-18


This was  our second test of the forced hibernation technique. The winter was colder, wetter  and 30 days longer than last winter and  60 % survived.  Although lower survival than last winter this is still 6 times better than natural survival for neonatal snakes at this site.

Neonatal Massasaugas

She is alive!

After 197 days sequestered underground... Winter 2017-18 was  a long test for small snakes. We had 60% survival. 

Off she goes...

Now she is ready for the next challenge,  finding food, water and cover...

In four years it will be her turn

To give birth to the next generation of massasaugas