Written by Nathan Gardner, Transforming Lives Trainee
The warm summer days have faded as we reach October, which means that our native amphibians and reptiles have one thing on their mind: starting brumation. This process differs to that of the mammalian hibernation in that rather than a sustained period without bodily functions such as eating, drinking, or defecating, amphibians and reptiles will occasionally leave their hides in order to drink – which is important in regulating their bodily fluid levels – and perhaps bask in the sun on warmer days.
Most amphibians and reptiles are referred to as ‘ectothermic’, meaning they cannot generate their own body heat. Instead, they rely on their surrounding environments to warm and cool themselves, regulating their blood flow. Winter, of course, poses quite the issue for these critters, and they must seek refuge to buffer themselves from the harsh cold. It is important for amphibians to locate a hide that is moist, such as compost heaps or abandoned mammal burrows, as they have permeable skin as a means of absorbing water and oxygen. Reptiles have a more robust respiratory system, and thus can survive in drier conditions such as deadwood or leaf litter.
Here are a few suggested steps you can take in your own garden to help amphibians and reptiles have a successful brumation:
- Leave mounds of loose soil and piles of dead leaves or compost in the garden corners.
- Avoid disturbing these areas and withhold as much garden maintenance as possible.
- Leave small bowls of water beside these areas regularly; amphibians will need to soak, and reptiles will need to drink.
- Try building your own hibernaculum; a specialized hide consisting of logs, stones, and soil.
It is crucial that any amphibians or reptiles you invite into your garden feel safe and provided for. Let your grass grow and do your best not to disturb any dark, moist patches or corners. Please click here for more information.