Blast of cold lets alligators show off special skill to survive icy weather

Published 12:41 pm Thursday, February 1, 2024

The recent blast of cold weather has given alligators a chance to show off their way of coping with freezing temperatures.

The Swamp Park Outdoor Adventure Center in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina posted eerie videos on social media recently showing alligators suspended in frozen ponds with just the tips of their snouts peeking above the ice.

In one video, assistant manager Scott Perry got up close with one of the “swamp puppies” in their frozen state, reaching out to “boop” one motionless alligator’s nose, while warning viewers, “Don’t do this at home.”

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“Never in my life did I think I’d do that,” Perry said.

The park has 12 alligators that state wildlife officials have determined can’t return to the wild, often because they have been fed by humans, general manager George Howard said by telephone on Tuesday. He was excited to see the phenomenon over the weekend, saying it had been a few years since it last happened at the park.

The cold-blooded animals can’t regulate their own temperature, so when temperatures drop they go into a state called brumation to survive, Howard said. The alligators can protect themselves by sticking their noses up out of the water, so they can keep breathing while the water freezes around them, he said.

“Eyes closed and just the nostrils sticking up out of the water, just enough to breathe,” Howard said in one video showing an alligator he estimated was 9 to 10 feet (2.74 to 3.05 meters) long. “The entire body is suspended under the water. Pretty fantastic.”

But it didn’t last long. By Tuesday, temperatures had risen and Howard said the alligators had returned to normal.

Gator Country in Beaumont, Texas posted a video the week prior featuring an alligator there with its snout poked out of the ice.

“Look right down here. You can see the entire body of the alligator, but most importantly, look at his snout. He has pushed his snout up through so he can get oxygen and he can breathe,” owner Gary Saurage said. “Folks, that’s amazing! That’s how alligators survive in the ice.”

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