How Do Gators Stay Warm in the Winter?

Dec. 29, 2022
Basin Landing Airboat and Swamp Tour | How Do Gators Stay Warm in the Winter?

Although Louisiana is infamously warm almost year-round, there are a couple of months each year that not even the craziest of Cajuns want to get in the water. During these months, most birds migrate to warmer environments to return in the spring. But what about the animals, specifically the alligators, that can’t up and leave when it gets a little chilly

Typically, warm-blooded animals will go through hibernation during the winter months, but alligators are cold-blooded, so that won’t apply here. There is, however, a reptilian equivalent of mammal hibernation called brumation. Like hibernation, brumation is a period of dormancy where physiological processes in the body are slowed down to conserve energy in response to cold temperatures. Unlike hibernation, alligators are not asleep during brumation and will still have periods of activity, such as sunbathing on slightly warmer days. Most alligators will stop eating as their metabolic rate slows down and they become lethargic. They will also create mud holes for shelter and warmth. On the warmer days when alligators come out for a bit of sun, the ridges along their back, called scutes, will act as heat conductors.

Brumation usually lasts for four or five months, often starting in November and ending in late February. Fun fact, even though it rarely freezes down here, alligators can survive freezing water temperatures for a brief period by sticking their snout through the ice as the water freezes around them. Usually, alligators will stop feeding when the temperature drops to about 70 degrees and become completely dormant at 55 degrees. Alligators have even survived water temperatures as low as 40 degrees!

Atchafalaya Basin, Airboat Swamp Tours, offers tours year-round so you can see the glory of the swamp in every season. Book a tour today and see if you can spot a brumating alligator!

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