OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - How have alligators dealt with the freezing temperatures that hit our area?
According to George Howard, the general manager at Shallotte River Swamp Park, the gators, including the 12 rescued at the park, stick their noses up through the ice so they're able to breathe, then they hibernate.
Howard said technically the American alligators' form of hibernation is called brumation. He said they lower their body temperature and metabolism so they can survive.
When it gets warm again and the ice melts, the alligators will start thermoregulating their body temperatures.
"They poke their noses up and are able to breathe and be perfectly fine, so they're doing this as a mechanism so that if it freezes over, they can still breath," Howard said. "(It's) just an absolute amazing survival technique and these guys were built tough millions of years ago and they remain tough today."
Howard first noticed the gators' snouts sticking out of the frozen pond in the 3,000 square foot enclosure when he was checking the enclosure after last Wednesday's snow storm.
"I looked around and I was like, 'Hmm, what is that poking up out of the water?'" Howard said. "They almost look like cypress knees a little bit from afar. And then I realized as I saw some teeth that, oh my gosh, these guys are poking their heads up out of the water.
"It made sense immediately why they were doing it. But just to be careful, I researched it very quickly to make sure that was OK because I have never seen that before."
According to Howard, this is completely normal as a survival mechanism for alligators.
Howard posted a few videos on Facebook to show the public how these reptiles survive the frosty conditions. He said he posted the videos because it's a great learning experience for the public.
"It's not a concern whatsoever," he said. "All I can say is that we continue, every day, every month, every year, to learn more and more about these guys and what they're able to do," Howard said. "To be honest with you, every single time we're just floored at just how amazing of a creature they are."
The park's rescued alligators previously have been in captivity and can no longer go back in the wild.