Of Snakes and Turtles Underground
Snakes, turtles, and tortoises are all reptiles, and as such, are partially dependent upon their
surroundings to maintain their body temperature. Because Missouri caves average about 54 to 58
degrees Fahrenheit, deep passages within caves are not good places for most reptiles to be. The
cool temperatures, complicated by the usually wet conditions, will often cause the hapless reptile
to become sluggish, quit eating, and quite literally starve to death while in the torpid state, if not
removed from the cave. Most reptiles in caves have fallen or been washed in, making their
chances of getting out of the cave alive very slim indeed.
This is not true, of course, of sunny cave entrances, shelter caves, or shallow, dry, cliff face
caves. These locations are very attractive to sunning snakes and tortoises, since the rock, once
warmed by the sun, will maintain its heat for a longer time than the ground.
Snake Pit, Crawford County
Like a roach motel, snakes drop in, but cannot then escape.
Conditions are such that they can apparently live out their lives, despite their confinement.
Some sinkholes, with
a sunny extent on the floor, are practically a snake paradise, as they can live there for years, just
waiting for small mammals to drop in for lunch. Copperheads (poisonous) and black snakes are
common cave entrance residents, so Be Careful!
2003 Jo Schaper.
Return to Cave Critters.
Return to Webster's Home Cave.