Gators freeze themselves in N.C. swamp with noses out

Mark Price
The Charlotte Observer

Charlotte, N.C. — Alligators in one eastern North Carolina swamp have proven it was no fluke last winter, when they survived a cold snap by freezing themselves in place with their noses above the ice.

It happened again Monday at The Swamp Park, only this time more — and bigger — alligators joined in, says park manager George Howard, who posted a video Tuesday. The video has been viewed nearly 6,000 times in the past day.

“All our alligators in ice here,” Howard says in the video. “Eighteen American alligators are thinking ahead, as they poke their noses through the ice.”

Swamp waters in the 65-acre park froze Monday evening and stayed frozen all day Tuesday, Howard said.

The troop of alligators, one of which is 11 feet, got international attention by doing the same thing one day last January, lying still in the water until it froze around their noses. Last year was the first time such behavior had been observed in the park, Howard told the Charlotte Observer.

Experts say the adaptation disproves the long standing belief that alligators are prevented from migrating north due to cold temperatures. The park is along the Shallotte River, about 200 miles east of Charlotte.

Howard says the alligators seem to sense when the water is at the freezing point and they respond by poking their nose above the surface “at just the right moment.”

Once frozen, they enter “a state of brumation, like hibernating,” until the water thaws, he told the Observer last year.

The alligators that froze last year in the park thawed out a few days later with no apparent injuries, he said.

Among the oddities observed by park staff last year is that the gators do not react when disturbed in their frozen state, which Howard says is because they are trying to conserve energy.

North Carolina wildlife officials say it’s unlikely that alligators will migrant farther west in the state, because that region doesn’t have the waterways needed for breeding and raising young.

However, areas as far west as Charlotte continue to see reports of alligators, including two that were run over by cars last year . Experts believe those alligators were pets released into the wild when they got too big.