If the word ‘hibernation’ brings to mind thoughts of a bear sleeping in a cave, you might try to think of other animals that hibernate. Squirrels and hedgehogs, right? But what about reptiles?
Reptiles have a similar process to hibernation called brumation. It can happen any time of the year, but can sometimes line up with seasonal shifts in temperature. They don’t sleep for months quite like hibernating mammals do, as they still need to drink water and occasionally eat. Brumation helps them to conserve energy over weeks by not moving.
The question is, do geckos hibernate? Some species of gecko do hibernate naturally in the wild, though geckos in captivity do not need to go through brumation. Brumation can also be encouraged and artificially imposed on a gecko, though it isn’t recommended to do unless you know what you’re doing. Brumation comes with risks.
Which geckos hibernate?
Geckos that are known to hibernate include:
- Common house gecko
- Crested gecko
- Leopard gecko
- Tokay gecko
Information on crested and leopard geckos hibernating is much more widely available than for other species.
Which geckos do not hibernate?
It’s important to check with a veterinarian or reptile specialist to ensure the needs of your gecko are met. Some sub-species of gecko might be more prone to hibernation, and others may be able to artificially hibernate. There is very little guidance available for the following geckos’ hibernating patterns:
- African fat-tailed gecko
- Day gecko
What happens when a gecko hibernates?
Unlike a hibernating mammal, reptiles do not fall into a deep sleep to conserve their metabolism. When a gecko hibernates, they go into a dormant period where they conserve energy by not moving. They do this in the wild to cope with less access to food typically. Brumation also allows geckos to synchronize their reproductive cycles, as mating occurs once the period ends.
How do you know if your gecko is hibernating?
You can tell if your gecko is hibernating by observing your gecko and finding patterns in its behavior. Each gecko will act differently, but the most common signs of hibernation are:
- Not moving or hiding
- Not eating or loss of appetite
- Not defecating
- Moving slowly or seeming lethargic
- Sleeping a lot
Some geckos will remain hidden or not moving for weeks, while others may start to move around for a few days before returning to a dormant state.
What should you do if your gecko is hibernating?
Geckos typically don’t (and shouldn’t) brumate before they are a year old. This allows you to observe their normal behavior and ensure they’re healthy. It’s best to have a vet check your gecko before they begin brumating to make sure that the gecko is healthy and free of parasites. This should be done at least a month before the gecko might hibernate so you can treat any issues.
While your gecko hibernates, check the humidity and temperature of their enclosure are okay and make sure they always have water. Otherwise, you should leave them alone and avoid disturbing them. Your vet will be able to give clearer advice on what food should be given to your pet during this time. Easy to catch food is best because if your gecko is hungry, it won’t want to use more energy than it will receive.
Do geckos hibernate during winter if kept at room temperature?
Geckos don’t necessarily have to hibernate at all. However, pressure changes that accompany seasonal shifts might still cause a gecko to go into brumation, depending on your region and individual geckos. If you live in a place with very mild weather, your gecko is less likely to naturally hibernate.
How long does hibernation last?
Most geckos prone to brumation will begin to hibernate in September/October. Gecko hibernation can last for weeks or months, and can even last from September to the beginning of spring. Brumation is different for every gecko and dependent on your climate as well, so it’s a good idea to note down when each cycle of hibernation begins and ends – this will help you plan for the next cycle.
Is hibernation dangerous for geckos?
Hibernation is dangerous for geckos if they are unwell or have parasites due to their lack of food and nutrients, which is why it’s important to get your gecko checked out by a vet before brumation. Similarly, juvenile geckos under the age of one year old should not brumate as they need to eat regularly and get the proper nutrients to develop and grow.
What is the advantage of gecko hibernation?
Hibernation is important for wild geckos to conserve their energy when food is scarce. For pet geckos, brumation can help synchronize breeding cycles which may be used by gecko breeders to encourage reproduction.
Where do geckos hibernate in the wild?
In the wild, geckos will hibernate in safe spaces like rotting logs, burrows, in or under rocks, and trees. Depending on the climate, a gecko will hibernate when the temperature is too cold or when it serves them best.
Many gecko species hibernate, though pet geckos do not require brumation like their wild counterparts. It’s important to research before September to prepare for your gecko, as each gecko species may have particular preferences and needs that need taking care of. Speak to your vet or a reptile specialist to prepare for brumation.