Do Alligators Migrate, There’s More to Know

Migration is when animals move from one place to another and is driven by several factors. Animals temporarily move out from their natural habitat during winter or cold season to a site that is more suitable to live in for the moment.

Other animals migrate in search of food, or during mating season. These animals eventually go back to their natural habitat after winter or mating season. Do not confuse migration with emigration, wherein animals permanently move to live in a new place.

A lot of different animal species, including reptiles, migrate, but alligators are not one of them. The most notable reptiles to migrate are turtles. When it’s time for the female turtles to lay their eggs, they move to the breeding beaches, which can be miles away from their home. There, they lay and bury their eggs in the sand. When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles crawl back to the sea and swim on their own, without their parents to guide them.

What Do Alligators Do?

If alligators do not migrate during winter, what do they do during the cold season?

It’s easy to assume that alligators go into hibernation during wintertime, but no, they don’t. Instead of hibernation, they go on brumation. Below are the different ways on how animals deal with the extreme environmental temperature.

Animal Dormancy

Animal dormancy or resting state is when animals either go to deep sleep or reduce activity for survival purposes. There are three ways on how animals get through during seasons of extreme temperatures – hibernation, brumation, and estivation.

It can be confusing for some because these three are similar in the sense that all animals undergoing any state of dormancy share the same survival mode behavior. They have low body temperature, low heart, breathing, and metabolic rate – everything associated with conserving energy to get through their dormancy season.


The most popular form of animal dormancy state happens during winter or cold season. This is specific to some endotherms or warm-blooded animals.

Chipmunks, skunks, bears and even bats undergo hibernation to conserve their body heat during the winter. This can go on from several days to weeks or months. Environmental temperature and the animal’s overall condition have an effect on how long the animal will be hibernating.


Estivation is when animals undergo a state of dormancy during the dry and hot summer season. This is more commonly known to occur in terrestrial and aquatic animals.

Some of the animals which undergo estivation are insects like ladybugs and Bogong moths, crustaceans like crabs, mollusks like land snails, reptiles like desert tortoises, and many more.

This state of dormancy prevents these animals from desiccation or extreme dryness, which is fatal to anyone, even to humans. Animals undergoing estivation usually find a shaded and cool spot, staying there for the rest of the dry and hot summer season.


Cold-blooded animals have their own version of hibernation called brumation, wherein they are in a state of reduced activity instead of a deep slumber.

Also known as ectotherms, they do not have the capacity to self-regulate their body temperature, so they rely on their environment for this.

Because of this, fluctuations in body temperature happen to them, and when it becomes too cold for them, they slip into brumation. But unlike animals in hibernation, brumating animals are not under a deep sleep. They can still move and find their food and water during the warmer winter times.

How Do Alligators Undergo Brumation

According to experts, alligators hide in burrows, under-road dens, river banks, or underwater to undergo brumation. The fascinating thing about them is that alligators brumate differently. There are alligators that enjoy the insulation offered by the burrows, while others were observed to brumate submerged in the river. They stick out just their noses above the water and let the cold winter freeze it over, staying there until the ice in their noses melts.

How Do Alligators Know When to Undergo Brumation

Just like the other state of dormancy, brumation is a process and does not happen instantly. Alligators can read nature’s triggers, signaling them that winter is near and that they need to start preparing for brumation. One trigger is when days are becoming shorter during the autumn season. The sun is out less, and that has a great effect on the alligators’ need for warmth.

During this time, alligators slow down on eating because their priority is more on soaking up in the sun, getting as much warmth as they possibly can before the long winter comes. It is also during this time that alligator nuisance calls are high because they can be found gathered on ponds and river banks, and they are harder to scare off and shoo away.

Alligators are completely awake during brumation in winter. But since their priority is surviving, they stay still as much as they can to keep warm and won’t even bother at people being close to them. They are less aggressive and lethargic during brumation because of lack of food.

When winter is coming to an end, alligators start coming out from their hiding places. There are only three things in an alligator’s mind after brumation – finding food after a state of starvation, soaking up in the sun to get warm again, and preparing for their mating season.

After brumation, alligators will eat just any food it comes close to, even if it’s a dead and decaying animal. Alligators’ courting and mating season begin after they have all warmed up and their hunger subsided.

How Long Does an Alligator Undergo Brumation

Alligators brumating both in lairs, burrows or underwater can stay there for up to five months. But those alligators underwater must resurface from time to time to get air. Others just stick out their noses above water to save energy from swimming back and forth. They also do this when it gets too cold and before the water surface starts to freeze, so even with the frozen pond or river, they can still breathe.

American Alligators With Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures 

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