What Do Alligators Do in the Winter?

June 1, 2023

The recent extreme cold temperatures have made many people wonder, “what do alligators do in the winter?” Dione Sabelhaus, marketing director at Gator Chateau in Jennings, said as the temperatures begin to drop, they become less active. This is because alligators are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They stop eating and move into their dens or alligator holes. They remain dormant until the temperatures rise. This state is called brumation and, while it may look like they are sleeping, they can still be woken up by the sun. They are much less likely to attack than when they are fully active, so they can be approached safely.

Unlike mammals, reptiles do not hibernate but instead enter a state of brumation, which is a similar process to hibernation except they do not go into a deep sleep. They slow their metabolism and become lethargic, and can reawaken when the weather warms up again. While brumating, they will not eat, but are able to drink water.

However, if the weather gets really cold, alligators can also engage in an extraordinary survival technique known as icing. As the ice forms over lakes and ponds, alligators will extend the tips of their snouts above it to allow for air flow. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation posted photos on Facebook Tuesday showing the reptiles engaging in this odd-looking strategy. While it isn’t as effective as brumating, it allows the alligators to survive brief periods of freezing weather.


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