Social Snakes?

Many people imagine reptiles to be solitary creatures. This is far from the truth. A huge number of reptile species show complex social dynamics including mating, parental care, hunting, or hibernation. This website focuses on two species of snake, the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and the Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus).

T. sirtalis by Marc Verreault

The common garter snake forms huge aggregations over the winter. Thousands of snakes will fill the same den to hibernate. In the spring, mating season coincides with the time when these snakes emerge from their hibernation dens. As they emerge, sexually receptive females attract the attention of scores of amorous males. These suitors form what is known as a mating ball around the female.

C. cerberus by Melissa Amarello

Somewhat like the garter snakes, Arizona black rattlesnakes aggregate at social dens. However, pregnant females live at these dens even during their active season. In fact the same snakes tend to live at the same dens year after year. At these dens one can observe many interactions between snakes.