As the temperatures in North Carolina fell under 0, the alligators of Shallotte River Swamp Park froze and found themselves idle with their muzzle out of the ice.
At least 18 alligators at the Shallotte River Swall Park in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, entered a inert state called “Brumation”, and which is observed in cold-blooded animals livestock in periods of low temperature. They were found "frozen" with their noses above the ice as temperatures dropped well below freezing.
Brumation is a “semi-opactivations” observed in cold-blooded animals, and allows them to slow down their metabolism and remain without food and water. For alligators, the condition can last four to five months and can be triggered by temperatures below 21 degrees Celsius. They stay in the water and hold their nostrils above it so they can breathe. The process is similar to hibernation but differs in the metabolic processes involved. In general, hibernation refers only to mammals.
According to Mr. Howard, director of the park, this behavior "is a survival mechanism that alligators do in case they need to breathe. As soon as the temperatures start to drop they stick their noses out of the water, and if freeze, will freeze around their snout and allow them to breathe. When the ice melts, the alligators come back free and start their lives again."
The Shallotte River Swamp Park is a privately licensed and certified North Carolina Reptile Rescue Shelter.