The Tiny Herps of Winter

During winter, most reptiles and amphibians enter brumation (similar to hibernation) to wait out the cold months, but sometimes, individuals are disturbed and run into trouble. Recently, the Center has admitted several herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) whose winter did not go as planned, and they have one thing in common: they are all tiny!

The first of the tiny herps admitted this winter was Snapping Turtle #23-3930. The hatchling turtle, weighing in at only seven grams, was found out in the open on a particularly cold December day. The vet team suspects that the turtle emerged from its nest site too early or was roused out of brumation by a recent warm snap. Luckily it had been found before it succumbed to exposure and was warmed up inside the rescuer’s home. The small turtle is currently overwintering in the Center’s Reptile Room until spring when it is warm enough for release.

In January, the Center admitted its next tiny patient: Gray Tree Frog #24-0055. This frog was found inside a home in Albemarle County and was reported to be lethargic, but an exam did not reveal any injuries and the vet team noted that the tree frog was active and healthy. After the exam, vet staff weighed the frog and found that it was only three grams, roughly the weight of a penny! The frog is also overwintering in the Center’s Reptile Room and has almost doubled in weight since admission.


One week later, the most recent of the small reptiles was admitted to the Center, this time a snake: Eastern Ratsnake #24-0093. The young snake was found outside of a school in Waynesboro when the temperature was only about 40 degrees, a much lower temperature than these snakes can tolerate. An exam at the Center revealed that the ratsnake was healthy and feisty. The vet team suspects that the small snake had a difficult time finding a spot to brumate before the cold temperatures settled in. Like the other patients, this ratsnake will need to overwinter at the Wildlife Center until spring.


If you happen to find a reptile or amphibian in winter, the best thing to do is call a wildlife rehabilitator for help. If the reptile was uncovered in the middle of brumation, such as through yard work, then it may be able to stay in place as long as it is immediately covered again. Otherwise, most reptiles and amphibians are not able to survive cold temperatures and they may need to overwinter with a wildlife rehabilitator.

Learn more here:

Your donation can help the Wildlife Center care for these patients and many other overwintering animals. Thanks for your support!