Where Do Alligators Go in the Winter?

Written by Dayva Segal
Updated: October 20, 2023
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Alligators are fearsome creatures that live in southern swamps in the US, in one state in Mexico, and in the Yangtze River in China. Chinese alligators are extremely endangered. Experts believe there may only be a few dozen left. In the US, alligators are most notoriously found in Louisiana and Florida. However, they also exist in other southern states, including Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and even Oklahoma. In Mexico, they live in the northern state of Tamaulipas. Let’s find out where alligators hide out during the winter in this article.

About Alligators


You can recognize alligators by their long snouts.

©Ernie Hounshell/Shutterstock.com

Alligators are large reptiles in the genus Crocodilia. Although they are in the same genus as crocodiles, they are a different species. There is only one place in the world where crocodiles and alligators live in the same area: Southern Florida. American adult alligators are about 13 feet long on average. They weigh around 800 pounds. However, the largest one ever found was over 19 feet long.

Alligators are easily recognizable by their long snouts with nostrils that allow them to breathe while most of their body is submerged under the water. Their bodies are long with short legs, and their skin is typically bumpy and scaly. While experts say that crocodiles tend to be more aggressive than alligators, alligators are creatures to fear as well because they will attack when provoked. However, in Florida, where there are over one million alligators, fewer than 500 alligator bites occurred between 1948 and 2011, and only 26 of those were deadly.

Where Do Alligators Go in the Winter?

american alligator

Alligators stay put in the water but with low activity.

©Marc Pletcher/Shutterstock.com

Alligators are cold-blooded, which means their body temperature is affected by the environment. When the temperatures drop, alligators’ body temperatures also drop. In cold weather, alligators go into a state of very low activity, to the point that they are nearly immobile. They stick their snouts above the water while hardly moving until temperatures rise. This is called “icing behavior.” In this state, these animals are so docile that scientists have been able to touch them without the animals moving or even opening their eyes.

In less extreme cold temperatures, alligators may lie in dens by riverbanks where there are pockets of air. They may also hide out under the roads. These areas are insulated from the worst of the winter weather.

Most calls about alligators happen in the spring and fall when temperatures are more erratic, and alligators are trying to stay warm. However, the most dangerous time to encounter a gator is in June and July, when mother gators are most protective of their new babies.


Alligators brumate in the water – keeping their eyes and nostrils above the surface.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Unlike other animals that beef up for winter, alligators actually slow their eating in preparation for the season. As the temperatures drop, their metabolisms slow down, and they don’t need to eat as much food.

After a few warm days, alligators become more active again and emerge from their winter hiding spots. This process of slowing down is not hibernation because they are not technically asleep. They are awake; though largely inactive. This state is called brumation.

It doesn’t take much for alligators to go dormant. They slow their eating when temperatures drop below 70 degrees and go into brumation when temperatures drop below 55 degrees.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Dayva is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering astrology, animals, and geography. She has over 12 years of experience as a writer, and graduated from Hofstra University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Music and a Minor in French. She has also completed course work in Core Strengths Coaching, Hypnotherapy, and Technical Communication. Dayva lives in the SF Bay Area with her cute but very shy cat, Tula.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do alligators go in the winter?

Alligators stay where they live. They go into a low activity state called brumation.

Do alligators hibernate?

Alligators do not hibernate. They go into a state that is similar to hibernation called brumation. However, in brumation, animals are not asleep. They are fully awake and just go into a state of extremely low activity and movement.

How do alligators prepare for winter?

Alligators prepare for winter by eating less, unlike many other animals that eat more to prepare for winter.

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