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Where do alligators go in the winter?

Kellen Moore

Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Even in winter, alligators are present in local rivers and lakes.

“They don’t migrate great distances away from here,” said Andy Wood, education director for Audubon North Carolina, a research and conservation program for state habitats. “They kind of just hunker down where they have their territory.”

The animals generally become less active from November through March, when water temperatures can fall into the 40s and 50s, although spurts of warmer weather can bring them out even in the middle of winter.

Alligators are able to slow their metabolisms so their bodies need less oxygen, and they also can get some oxygen from the water. They also might seek out areas near fallen trees, where they can climb into holes to stay content.

“They do not hibernate in the sense that we think of with animals like bears,” Wood said. “They just kind of slow down and essentially shut down.”

If their home base becomes too unbearable, alligators can travel over land or through rivers for several miles. The animals are generally found within 20 or 30 miles of the coast, Wood said.

And alligators aren’t immune to winter ailments, such as respiratory issues and pneumonia, Wood said.

“It’s tough being an alligator at times,” he said.

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