How cold/high can snakes go?

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Austin Carl
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How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by Austin Carl » November 19th, 2019, 7:50 pm

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Hiking in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness of Montana at 8,000 feet elevation early in September, I noticed about 7 garter snakes in the span of 3 hours seemingly cruising to their winter hibernaculum due to daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s. A friend also reported seeing rubber boas and north american racers in similar high mountain habitat at 6,000 feet- places I thought were too cold due to being under snow for 6 or more months of the year. I am soon moving to a Colorado mountain town at 10,000 feet and am wondering what snakes could be up there and why/why not. Are snakes elevation/temperature tolerances actually related to getting too cold or unsuitable terrain for adequate hibernating spots? Or are their "warm-blooded" prey bases like small mammals less tolerant of the cold than the snakes themselves and actually limit the snakes' range by absence of sufficient prey? Or both? What's the coldest/highest you've ever seen a snake?

Jimi
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by Jimi » November 20th, 2019, 9:16 am

You've got a lot of questions. Too many to get into ATM. However - I think, if you don't already know it, that a good hard look at Geoff Hammerson's CO herps book would please you. You might wish to own it, if you don't yet.

Stepping back a sec, living in a high cold state, and pushing the limits of what I thought were reasonable searching conditions, has really opened my eyes to snake cold tolerance. Some physiological, some behavioral.

As for your subject line, see Crotalus triseriatus on the big Mexican volcanoes, and Vipera berus above the Arctic Circle. There's no continental high-latitude landmasses in the S hemi, but there are some lanceheads that go pretty far south and fairly high too, I believe. Bothrops ammodytoides I think, is the main one?

Note all the records go to vipers. God gave them the best endowments. Ha ha.

cheers

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Chaitanya
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by Chaitanya » November 21st, 2019, 9:07 am

There are couple of records of Gloydius himalayanus(most of its relatives are high altitude specialists) living upto 5000mts above msl. Again in this case its a pit viper living at high altitude. I remember seeing these snakes and its prey items(skinks and agamas) only above 1500mts msl and mystiriously vanishing below that mark.

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RenoBart
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by RenoBart » November 21st, 2019, 1:17 pm

I found numerous wandering garters in the Jarbidge Wilderness area of Nevada in excess of 8000 feet. I was definitely surprised as well.

http://www.naherp.com/viewrecord.php?r_id=272107

Jimi
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by Jimi » November 21st, 2019, 4:09 pm

There are couple of records of Gloydius
Ah, yes I forgot the old-world pitvipers. There are a few of those that are either very high-elevation, or pretty high latitude, too. I'm not sure who winds the record for "excels in the most awful climate". Maybe the Gloydius in North Korea and Manchuria?
I found numerous wandering garters in the Jarbidge Wilderness area of Nevada in excess of 8000 feet. I was definitely surprised as well.
That's about my rule-of-thumb elevation for where snakes mostly peter out in Utah. Definitely there's 3 widespread species (boa, garter, rattler) that on occasion can be pretty abundant at or a bit above that elevation, and that also in a few special places can vastly exceed that elevation. I've heard of lutosus at 11,000 feet for example, and garters & boas above 9000, both in Utah. Which is fairly far north, so that's kind of impressive. I think those snakes have about a 3-month activity season. It's probably why livebearers win out.

That's a nice area, the Jarbridge.

cheers

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RenoBart
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by RenoBart » November 21st, 2019, 4:55 pm

Jimi wrote:
November 21st, 2019, 4:09 pm
That's a nice area, the Jarbridge.
It is, personally, probably my favorite part of Nevada...save for maybe the Great Basin National Park area...

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Paul Freed
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by Paul Freed » November 22nd, 2019, 8:27 am

Don't forget about, Thermophis baileyi (Bailey's Hot-spring Snake) the endemic colubrid from Tibet. It has been found at 4300 meters (ca. 14,000 ft.) living in the hot springs of the region.
-Paul

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Chaitanya
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Re: How cold/high can snakes go?

Post by Chaitanya » November 26th, 2019, 10:56 pm

Paul Freed wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 8:27 am
Don't forget about, Thermophis baileyi (Bailey's Hot-spring Snake) the endemic colubrid from Tibet. It has been found at 4300 meters (ca. 14,000 ft.) living in the hot springs of the region.
-Paul
But Thermophis sp. do have luxury of their oasis i.e. hot springs in middle of high elevation cold desert. While there are snakes(on Tibetan plateau itself) like Gloydius sp., Trimeresurus sp. which do brave the cold and windy tibetan plateau.
Jimi wrote:
November 21st, 2019, 4:09 pm
There are couple of records of Gloydius
Ah, yes I forgot the old-world pitvipers. There are a few of those that are either very high-elevation, or pretty high latitude, too. I'm not sure who winds the record for "excels in the most awful climate". Maybe the Gloydius in North Korea and Manchuria?
I found numerous wandering garters in the Jarbidge Wilderness area of Nevada in excess of 8000 feet. I was definitely surprised as well.
That's about my rule-of-thumb elevation for where snakes mostly peter out in Utah. Definitely there's 3 widespread species (boa, garter, rattler) that on occasion can be pretty abundant at or a bit above that elevation, and that also in a few special places can vastly exceed that elevation. I've heard of lutosus at 11,000 feet for example, and garters & boas above 9000, both in Utah. Which is fairly far north, so that's kind of impressive. I think those snakes have about a 3-month activity season. It's probably why livebearers win out.

That's a nice area, the Jarbridge.

cheers
I had no idea of distribution of Gloydius into Korean peninsula, I always thought they were restricted to East Himalayas in east and south going upto Caucasian mountain range in West. Couple of years back I was talking with my group of Climbers who had been to Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve and they told me they had seen Gloydius himalayanus at an elevation of 4000mts above MSL on side of a glacier. When I visited the area in April 2016 I couldn't find any snakes(daytime temps were around 12 Deg C and at night it would fall below 0 C) but did see few agamas(Laudakia sp.) there.

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