Most of my snakes have had their last meals for the 2009 season. Why? Breeding season 2010! An important part of breeding many reptiles, including most snakes, is a process called brumation. Brumation involves allowing a reptile to spend the winter in a cool, dark area for a few months to prepare it for the spring and summer breeding season. Brumation stimulates the production of hormones that kick start a reptile's reproductive system.
Methods for cooling reptiles vary, but mine is simple and straightforward. Toward the end of summer I decide which snakes I will try to breed the next year. I feed them as much as they will eat to build up body mass. Around mid October I stop feeding the selected snakes. After waiting three weeks, to allow for all food to be digested, I turn off the cage heaters. This allows for a slight drop in temperature in each cage. After a few more days (3-7), I move the snakes into smaller cages with bedding and a water bowl. I place these cages in an unheated closet. The temperature in the closet gets as low as 50 degrees during the coldest part of the winter and it stays dark.
I check on the snakes every couple of weeks to make sure they have water and to make sure all is well. Occasionally, snakes will shed during brumation, so they receive extra attention to make sure there are no shedding issues (stuck sheds, retained eyecaps, etc.).
After two months, the snakes are removed from the closet and gradually exposed to warmer temperatures. After about a week, I offer food, which is usually met with great enthusiasm!
That's it for brumation.