Conservation Wildlife Management

Watch: Alligator Frozen Stiff in Icy Pond Isn’t Dead. It’s Just Brumating

At first glance, this gator might look dead or close to it. In reality, it's hunkered down until the pond thaws
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An alligator lies submerged under ice with its nose poking through to breath.
This alligator is in a state of brumation, which is like hibernation for cold-blooded animals. Photograph from Eddie Hanhart / TikTok

A video of an alligator frozen stiff in an iced-over pond in Beaumont, Texas blew up on Eddie Hanhart’s TikTok account on Thursday, but not for the reason you might think. While the motionless gator appears to be dead under the ice, Hanhart reminds viewers that it’s very much alive and will survive the freezing temperatures in that exact position. With the tip of its snout sticking just above the icy surface and its nostrils fully exposed, the gator will continue to breathe this way until the pond thaws.

@eddiehanhart123

The amarican alliagtor is absolutely magnificent!! @Gator Country TX #americanalligator #gatorcountrybmt

♬ original sound – eddie h

“We bundle up, but this is what the American alligator does,” says Hanhart, a reptile enthusiast and employee at Gator Country Adventure Park whose profile features several other alligator videos. “See, he knew it was going to freeze last night. So he went to a nice comfy spot, stuck his nose out of the water, and let the ice freeze around his nose. He is not dead, he is fully alive. He has his heart rate down to three beats per minute right now, and whenever the ice thaws out, he’ll get up on the bank and start soaking up those nice hot sun rays, and he’ll be able to warm up.”

Alligators enter this state, known as brumation, during the fall and winter months. Similar to torpor and hibernation in mammals and birds, this physical state allows alligators to consume very few calories and, thus, expend very little energy to preserve their nutrient stores. Their metabolism and body temperature plummets and they become lethargic. They will remain in this state until spring, when more food starts walking and swimming around. Lots of other reptiles,fish, and amphibians brumate.

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Beaumont is in southeast Texas near the Louisiana border. Cold temperatures have blasted much of the nation over the last week, and overnight lows have dipped well below freezing in Texas most nights. While frozen ponds aren’t always a winter reality in this part of the South, alligators are ready to deploy all these strange tactics at a moment’s notice. So the next time you see an alligator frozen in a pond, don’t worry. It’ll survive.