Where Do Alligators Go in the Winter?

Written by Dayva Segal
Updated: June 6, 2023
© Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • In the US, alligators can be found in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma.
  • Southern Florida is the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators co-exist.
  • Like snakes, alligators brumate during the winter – only they do it in the water. They stick their snouts above the surface so they can breathe and remain in the water while hardly moving until the temperatures warm up. This is called “icing behavior” in alligators.

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 1 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

Like other reptiles, alligators are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperature is affected by the environment. This is opposed to warm-blooded animals, which regulate their own body temperatures. When the temperatures drop, alligators’ body temperatures also drop. They tend to stay put right where they are in the water. Alligators can go into a state of very low activity, to the point that they are nearly immobile when extreme cold weather strikes and the body of water they live in freezes over. They stick their snouts above the water so they can breathe and remain in the water while hardly moving until the temperatures warm up. This is called “icing behavior” in alligators. 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 be found in dens by river banks 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, and the air pocket allows them all the air they need.

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 actually 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 get slower, 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, just 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.

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer who has been working in the field of content creation and digital marketing for more than seven years. My favorite topics to write about include health, animals, fitness, and nutrition, though as a professional content provider and ghostwriter, I can easily write about pretty much anything! I love all animals and have been some form of vegetarian or vegan for over 10 years. My favorite animals are cats, dogs, and chickens, especially my own 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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