According to George Howard, the general manager at Shallotte River Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach, the gators, including the 12 rescued at the park, stick their noses up through the ice to breathe, then they hibernate.
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The alligators seem to know when it's about to freeze.
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When the water or air temperature is too low they go into a state of "brumation", which means their metabolism slows down so much that the gators go into a lethargic state. "It just so happened southeastern North Carolina recently had a freeze like none other, so the ice literally froze right around their snouts". Alligators can regulate their body temperature in all sorts of weather, park officials said, and can essentially remain frozen in place until the ice melts.
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"(It's) just an absolute wonderful survival technique and these guys were built tough millions of years ago and they remain tough today", Howard said. But that's no problem, according to the park's accompanying blog post. But fortunately for them they have quite the tactic to survive the frozen waters. "They are trying to conserve energy to maintain body temperature". Experts said they believed the alligators may have been pets released by their former owners.