'Hibernation' in reptiles is called brumation - it is different from hibernation in mammals in that the reptile is not living off its fat reserves. Instead, its metabolism, which is temperature dependent, has slowed down so much because of the cold that it hardly uses any energy over the course of winter. The reptile is still awake and still active (although very sluggish), but it actually doesn’t lose any significant weight during the winter.
Features of Red-bellied Black Snakes
A 1.2 metre Red-bellied Black Snake hastily retreats to the safety of thicker vegetation when I encounter it basking by the Hunter River
During mating season, males have been seen engaged in vigorous combat where they raise their bodies, intertwined in a struggle of strength. Biting does not occur, but the strongest snake will displace the rival courting male.
Populations have apparently declined dramatically in Qld and northern NSW, which has been attributed to the spread of the toxic introduced Cane Toad. Degredation of waterways has also contributed to the decline of Red-bellied Black Snakes.
Red-bellies are known to be canabalistic. They are also one of the Eastern Brown Snakes, (Pseudonaja textilis) major predators, keeping their numbers in check.
When encountered, the Red-bellied Black Snake will usually retreat swiftly without threat.
There are plenty of reasons to resist picking up a shovel when you encounter a Red-bellied Black Snake, the most relavent of which is that humans should respect the life and habitat of native wildlife. Snakes, like all other creatures, are a vital part of the big picture.
If you require a snake to be removed from your living space or work place, wildlife carers or NPWS should be able to put you in contact with a trained snake rescuer. With awareness and education, it is hoped that people will be more tolerant and understanding of snakes. Red-bellied Black Snakes are not aggressive unless provoked, and will avoid humans when ever possible.