Florida alligators, crocodiles like cold even less than you do. Here's what they do

Unlike their football namesakes at the University of Florida, alligators and crocodiles of the reptilian variety aren't active when temperatures drop.

Temperatures this week were low enough to drive Florida's reptiles looking for a warm place to hunker down and wait out the freezing temperatures.

Here's what you should know about Florida alligators and the American crocodile.

Alligators, crocodiles rely on external sources to stay warm

Because alligators and crocodiles are ectothermic, they have to rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Both reptiles control their body temperature by basking in the sun, or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures.

At what temperatures are alligators most active?

Alligators are most active when temperatures are between 82 and 92 degrees.

What do alligators, crocodiles do when temperatures drop?

Alligators stop feeding when the temperature drops below approximately 70 degrees, according to FWC.

They become dormant below 55 degrees. Alligators are dormant throughout much of the winter. During the winter, they can be found in burrows (or "dens") they make adjacent to an alligator hole or open water.

They do occasionally emerge to bask in the sun during warmer weather.

Crocodilians can withstand prolonged periods of cool weather without requiring food for temperature regulation, according to the Crocodile Specialist Group.

How many alligators and crocodiles are in Florida?

An estimated 1.3 million alligators are in Florida and can be found in all 67 counties, according to FWC.

It is estimated that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 crocodiles in the state, not including hatchlings. The American crocodile is considered threatened and endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

How many people have been bitten by alligators in Florida?

According to the latest information from FWC, 11 people were bitten by wild alligators in 2022 in what were considered unprovoked attacks. Nine of the bites were considered major.

Major bites are those in which the victims' injuries required medical care, beyond first aid, to treat wounds.

There have been 26 fatal attacks by wild alligators in Florida since 1948.

Here's a breakdown of bites by year:

  • 2022: 11

  • 2021: 9

  • 2020: 12

  • 2019: 10

  • 2018: 10

  • 2017: 12

  • 2016: 8

  • 2015: 9

  • 2014: 10

  • 2013: 15

Crocodile sightings on rise but conflicts with people rare

Crocodile sightings have increased — especially in Brevard County — as the result of their recovery, along with the growing number of people spending time on or near the waters of South Florida.

American crocodiles are generally shy and reclusive, making conflicts between them and people extremely rare in Florida.

What's the range of alligators?

Alligators can be found throughout Florida and across the Southeast.
Alligators can be found throughout Florida and across the Southeast.

Alligators can be found throughout Florida and from southeast Oklahoma and east Texas to North Carolina.

They prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats.

What's the range of crocodiles in Florida?

Range of crocodiles in Florida.
Range of crocodiles in Florida.

American crocodiles live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean and occur at the northern end of their range in South Florida and the Keys.

They can be found in brackish or saltwater areas and can be found in ponds, coves, and creeks in mangrove swamps.

They are occasionally encountered inland in freshwater areas of the Southeast Florida coast as they move along canals, according to FWC.

What do alligators and crocodiles eat?

Alligators are opportunistic feeders. Juvenile alligators eat primarily insects, amphibians, small fish, and other invertebrates. Adult alligators eat fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.

Natural prey for crocodiles include fish, reptiles, birds, and small mammals. Animals that resemble their natural prey, such as dogs and cats, are more susceptible to being bitten by crocodiles when in or near the water.

How big do Florida alligators and American crocodiles get?

Female alligators rarely exceed 10 feet in length, but males can grow much larger, the FWC said.

The Florida state record for length is a 14 foot 3-1/2 inch male from Lake Washington in Brevard County.

The Florida record for weight is a 1,043 pounds (13 feet 10-1/2 inches long) male from Orange Lake in Alachua County.

Male crocodiles are larger than females and can reach about 20 feet in length but rarely exceed 14 feet in the wild. Breeding females are about 8 to 12 feet in length, according to the National Park Service.

How many eggs do alligators and crocodiles lay?

Female alligators build a mound nest and lay an average of 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July. Incubation requires approximately 63 to 68 days, and hatching occurs from mid-August through early September.

Female crocodiles lay 20 to 60 eggs per clutch in soil nests. The eggs hatch in late July or early August.

Who to call

If you are concerned about a crocodile or alligator in your area, call 866-FWC-GATOR, 1-866-392-4286.

Do iguanas really fall from trees?

Iguanas can and do fall from trees. Like their cold-blood relatives the alligator and crocodile, iguanas need sun and warmer temperatures to stay active.

When temperatures hit the 40s, they slow down and stiffen. Since they like to climb, this means they can lose their grip and fall.

They're not hurt, and when temperatures warm up enough they'll head off on iguana business.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Florida alligators, American crocodiles: How cold weather affects them