Baby deserts trying to hibernate

Borgijo

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I foster baby desert tortoises ranging from just a couple weeks old to a year old. I have 18. 10 Texas deserts and 8 California deserts. I have noticed my California deserts are not eating and a few staying in their hides. Well last night and this morning I lost 3 babies. 2 at a month old 1 at 1.5 months old. My day temp is 86-87 basking 93-95, night 81-83, humidity lowest 65% mostly kept around 75%. I have megaray mvb as their basking and Arcadia dual 6500/12% uva/uvb bulbs, che for their night heat. Are their bodies just naturally set to hibernate no matter what the temps are? I thought if the temps were warm enough they wouldn’t. What can I do for these babies so I don’t lose any more. These guys seem so fragile compared to what my Leo babies were. Thanks for your input.
 

Tom

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When you say you "lost" them, do you mean they dug in for hibernation, or they died?

A pic of the enclosure would help.

Are you soaking daily?

Do they get some outside time?

What is their history? I find that people keep them far too dry initially and don't soak them at all or enough, and then they give them to someone like you who takes great care of them, only to have them die anyway. They are dying because the early chronic dehydration they were subjected to in the days or weeks right after hatching kills their kidneys. Nothing you do can save them if this is the case.
 

mark1

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was a study done on desert tortoises at Edwards airforce base ….. your probably familiar with it ? it was about the best way to headstart them …...water supplement and no water supplement , I believe they came to the conclusion that drought tolerance decreased with age , hatchlings had near a 100% survival rate during a two year drought , the older the tortoises , the higher the death rate from the drought ………i would put a link but i can't find it , there appear to be a lot of pdf's on the subject of the head start program , which is a lot of information ………. i do have it saved as a pdf ………..
 

Yvonne G

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When people turn in hatchling desert tortoises to my rescue, I set them up the same way as I set up my baby leopard tortoises - in a Vision Cage (closed chamber) with a fluorescent UVB and a radiant heat panel. I keep the substrate very wet. In all my time keeping baby desert tortoises I have NEVER had one that looked like it wanted to hibernate.

If you keep the light on for 12 to 14 hours a day, with a constant temperature all over the enclosure of 80-85F degrees, they have no idea it's getting to be winter.

When you say it looks like some of your babies are wanting to hibernate, that tells me there is some tweaking that needs to be done in your babies' enclosure.
 

Borgijo

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Those are pics of the three enclosures Tom. I soak every other day. Yvonne what would you suggest then. Because honestly that’s what I’ve been doing was kind of raising them like I did mine baby Leo’s with the exception of the higher temps. I felt like especially The older of the 3 that died had great eating and popping habits, great growth in his shell. I’m shocked if anything. The other two I kind of knew something was up because they didn’t seem to want to eat much from the beginning, and then it just got worse until they weren’t eating and staying in their hide.

Image AF8EA4FF CE20 475A 91E9 89EBCB238A54 B3317BB9 3203 4A7B A330 FA6872BDE914
 

Borgijo

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When people turn in hatchling desert tortoises to my rescue, I set them up the same way as I set up my baby leopard tortoises - in a Vision Cage (closed chamber) with a fluorescent UVB and a radiant heat panel. I keep the substrate very wet. In all my time keeping baby desert tortoises I have NEVER had one that looked like it wanted to hibernate.

If you keep the light on for 12 to 14 hours a day, with a constant temperature all over the enclosure of 80-85F degrees, they have no idea it's getting to be winter.

When you say it looks like some of your babies are wanting to hibernate, that tells me there is some tweaking that needs to be done in your babies' enclosure.
I forgot to say I have them set on timers their lights switch 7-7.
When you say you "lost" them, do you mean they dug in for hibernation, or they died?

A pic of the enclosure would help.

Are you soaking daily?

Do they get some outside time?

What is their history? I find that people keep them far too dry initially and don't soak them at all or enough, and then they give them to someone like you who takes great care of them, only to have them die anyway. They are dying because the early chronic dehydration they were subjected to in the days or weeks right after hatching kills their kidneys. Nothing you do can save them if this is the case.

Tom sorry I didn’t give any history, I’m a member of the San Diego turtle and tortoise society we get daily reliqishments of animals, I got the Texas deserts at a few days old, the California deserts ranging from a couple days to 10 mos old. Each in a group of a few or more. None hatched by incubator. They get outside time when weather permits, I don’t let my baby babies out unless it’s 80 degrees.
 

Tom

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I start DT babies identically to Russians, with the one exception of more grass in the diet for the DTs at al ages. I don't start DTs in closed humid chambers. I don't think they need it or benefit from it. I do use damp substrate and a humid hide, but I have lower overall humidity in the enclosure.

More detail here:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
 

Borgijo

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Well are we saying that they couldn’t have died from dehydration then because they definitely have the humidity and soaks?
 

Tom

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Well are we saying that they couldn’t have died from dehydration then because they definitely have the humidity and soaks?
No. Not saying that at all. Just the opposite. If they were kept too dry before you got them, there is nothing you could have done to save them. This can happen in a day or two of digging out of their nest and walking around above ground in a hot dry SoCal back yard. Babies can dehydrate very quickly due to their tiny mass and the small amount of water they carry.
 

mark1

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http://www.herpconbio.org/Volume_10/Symposium/Nagy_etal_2015.pdf


"Desert Tortoises at a head-start facility in the central Mojave Desert (Nagy et al. 1997; Wilson et al. 2001) indicated that a drought year having no available drinking water or green annual plants could be fatal to these young tortoises. Moreover, our observations of the juveniles living in the three unwatered pens during the dry spring and summer of 2007 led us believe they would not live very long. Their CI values had dropped to near or below 0.4, indicating severe dehydration and starvation (Nagy et al., 2002). Most were lethargic and unable (or unwilling) to open their eyes or respond quickly to touch stimuli when encountered at or near their burrow entrances in early
morning and evening. Substantial rain showers in early September ended the drought and apparently saved the lives of those first-year juveniles in the unwatered pens. They drank rainwater, recovered reasonably good body condition by mid-September, and had high annual survivorship(94%). Stored yolk may help confer drought resistance on first-year tortoises (see discussion below)."



"Our observation that the 16-month drought of 2006–2007 was fatal to all six of the surviving 2003-cohort (4-yr old) juveniles in the natural-rainfall-only pen is puzzling. The 2006 cohort, which hatched near the mid-point of that drought, survived the drought well, whether they lived in a rain-supplemented or a natural rain pen. We suspect that the large amount of yolk that hatchlings contain in their bodies may help account for their drought-durability. There may also be behavioral differences (remaining in burrows longer, staying inactive, withdrawing into shell) and physiological differences (possible ability to shrink during drought [Wikelski and Thom 2000]; reduced water losses via evaporation [Wilsonetal. 2001]) between hatchlings and 4-yr olds that influenced survivorship. To examine this further, we looked at survivorship of other cohorts living in the natural-rain-only pens during the drought period. Drought resistance declined with increasing age:
survivorship through the drought by the 2006 (youngest) cohort was 94%, it was 47% in the 2005 cohort, 50% in the 2004 cohort, and 0 % in the 2003 cohort. These observations indicate that an entire age group of juveniles living under natural rainfall conditions can be killed by a severe drought if the juveniles are around 3–4-yr old."
 

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