OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (CBS Local) — Alligators at a wildlife park in North Carolina are displaying a unique ability to survive winter conditions.

When The Shallotte River Swamp Park was hit by frigid temperatures this week, the alligators survived the cold snap by freezing themselves in place with their noses above the ice so they can breathe.

18 American alligators froze Monday night and stayed frozen all day Tuesday, Swamp Park manager George Howard told The Charlotte Observer. Howard said the alligators seem to sense when the water is at its freezing point and poke their snouts into the air “at just the right moment.”

Experts say the frozen alligators enter a state of “brumation,” when their metabolisms slow down and they enter a low-energy state similar to hibernation.

The adaptation was observed for the first time last year at the 65-acre park and sanctuary in Ocean Isle Beach. Howard said the alligators thawed out days later with no apparent injuries.

Experts say the behavior disproves the long standing belief that alligators are prevented from migrating north due to cold temperatures, reports The Charlotte Observer.