It is an uncommon sight to see hats, scarves, and winter coats in semi-tropical South Florida. With near record-breaking low temperatures this past week, one may wonder, what do animals do to keep warm when in the throes of a frigid “polar vortex”? The age-old adages of “sink or swim”, “fight or flight”, and “adapt or die” were perhaps never more apt.


Reptiles, in particular, are ectothermic (cold-blooded), which means their body temperature fluctuates with the environment around them. Without the luxury of fine linens to wrap themselves in, reptiles must find more creative ways to keep warm. Thick skin, slow metabolism, and digging burrows/dens all help protect reptiles from the cold.

Alligators’ and snakes’ metabolism slow down in the winter to preserve energy, and they go into a state of lethargy called ‘brumation’. Many of us thin-blooded Floridians can probably relate!

Turtles burrow in mud and under bank slopes, or take to the water, which at times can be warmer than the air! Lizards essentially hibernate within tree trunks, under rocks, and even in houses and other structures.

The native animals are adapted for life here, in all its harshness and splendor.

So the next time you see one of these critters, remember they are contending with the cooler temperatures, just like you (and by the way, snakes really don’t like hot cocoa).