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Nature Notebook – Crayfish Burrow Hibernacula

The consistently spring-like temperatures have convinced our ectothermic (or “cold-blooded”) animals to end their hibernations. Ideal hibernacula can be hard to come by so many of these usually solitary animals may have been sharing a space.

In wetlands such as those found at Sarett, most hibernacula are the burrows constructed by crayfish. Empty burrows at the edge of a pond are a great place for a garter snake or many garter snakes. Frogs and salamanders, some of the snakes’ usual prey, can safely share the same burrow during winter because all eating has stopped.

Crayfish that have hunkered down in their burrows at Sarett may end up with a Massasauga rattlesnake as a roommate. Even if the rattlesnake was hungry, crayfish are not on its menu and so they co-hibernate very nicely.

In addition to providing everyone with a space, co-hibernating has the added benefit of shared body warmth to help make it through the winter.