Cold-blooded animals can only regulate their body temperature through the environment, so when temperatures drop, alligators tend to get into a semi-dormant state known as brumation. Unlike hibernating mammals, alligators don’t go into a deep sleep, but rather become lethargic and don’t eat during this period. They may emerge on warmer days to soak up the sun’s rays and warm themselves.
While it seems that alligators vanish from sight during the winter, they’re still around. In fact, the greatest number of nuisance calls the Department of Natural Resources receives about gators is during fall and spring, which makes sense since these are the months when gators spend the most time on pond banks seeking warmth as they prepare for the coming chill.
It’s also during this season that breeding occurs, which is why the low growls of amorous male gators can be heard echoing throughout the Everglades. This makes it a great time of year for an airboat ride, just be sure to keep a safe distance from any alligators you see.
If the body of water they live in freezes, a gator will brumate on the bottom of the bayou or swamp and surface for air every day by sticking the tip of their snout above the ice. This behavior is called icing, and it’s why alligators often appear dead in photos taken during severe winter weather. The cold-blooded reptiles can only survive by using this method of surviving until the weather warms up again.