Breeding and lost clutches in large ‘natural’ enclosure

Txjester

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Austin Texas
Environment: Central Texas
Species: Radiated Tortoises (adults had 2 yrs); Ornate Box Turtles (adults had 10 yrs)
Enclosure: 18x24’ outdoor with a variety of ‘micro-environments’: rock overhangs/ledges; hills; pool; waterfall; low bushes; sand pit; edible cactus, native grass, weeds; ground cover dense foliage; heated enclosure; daily automated mist system, fruit/vegatble bearing tree, vines, and bushes bushes.

I have balanced the size of the enclosure so that the population doesnt wear down the area to bare dirt. I feel that natural plants should be available for grazing, and a larger size area is need to accommodate thus. Grass covers the entirety even as summer has thinned the landscape. There is a buried 4-5 inch deep buried perimeter around the entire enclosure to prevent escape. Everyone is healthy, heavy, and active. Large predators and rats are managed with traps, raptors are not present, only squirrels and small birds remain. Baby boxes are found every year and moved them to a grow out enclosure and release after they hit two yrs.

Now for the part I would like help with:
I can never find the buried clutches or laying female before they have already hatched.
The box turtles have been going for years and I find 3-4 egg clutches after they have hatched. I find few only 2-5 babies annually, even though it’s possible the numbers could be 20+ each year.
I walk (sometimes crawl) the enclosure for inspection at least daily, and while I sometimes find digging, never eggs.
Finding clutches becomes even more important as I want to incubate the Radiateds I expect once settled.

Are squirrels eating stealing babies?
Any suggestions for promoting laying in one area?
Do I have to trade-off a sterile enclosure to find the egg clutches?

Thx for the suggestions,
Jesse


BDAA0466-082C-4A18-8A04-F27E9119049C.jpeg
 

Tom

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Location (City and/or State)
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Environment: Central Texas
Species: Radiated Tortoises (adults had 2 yrs); Ornate Box Turtles (adults had 10 yrs)
Enclosure: 18x24’ outdoor with a variety of ‘micro-environments’: rock overhangs/ledges; hills; pool; waterfall; low bushes; sand pit; edible cactus, native grass, weeds; ground cover dense foliage; heated enclosure; daily automated mist system, fruit/vegatble bearing tree, vines, and bushes bushes.

I have balanced the size of the enclosure so that the population doesnt wear down the area to bare dirt. I feel that natural plants should be available for grazing, and a larger size area is need to accommodate thus. Grass covers the entirety even as summer has thinned the landscape. There is a buried 4-5 inch deep buried perimeter around the entire enclosure to prevent escape. Everyone is healthy, heavy, and active. Large predators and rats are managed with traps, raptors are not present, only squirrels and small birds remain. Baby boxes are found every year and moved them to a grow out enclosure and release after they hit two yrs.

Now for the part I would like help with:
I can never find the buried clutches or laying female before they have already hatched.
The box turtles have been going for years and I find 3-4 egg clutches after they have hatched. I find few only 2-5 babies annually, even though it’s possible the numbers could be 20+ each year.
I walk (sometimes crawl) the enclosure for inspection at least daily, and while I sometimes find digging, never eggs.
Finding clutches becomes even more important as I want to incubate the Radiateds I expect once settled.

Are squirrels eating stealing babies?
Any suggestions for promoting laying in one area?
Do I have to trade-off a sterile enclosure to find the egg clutches?

Thx for the suggestions,
Jesse


View attachment 347979
1. Species should never be mixed. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
2. 18x24 is a great size for a box turtle group, but too small for adult radiata. I'd give them at least 1000 sq. feet and bigger would be better.
3. The sand pit serves no purpose and is a substantial impaction risk.
4. The radiated tortoises should not have access to any fruit.
5. Rats and squirrels will both eat baby turtles and tortoises. And so will many bird species. There are raptors everywhere, even if you don't see them.
6. When you know laying is imminent for the box turtles, you can start weighing the females daily. On the day they drop a lot of weight, you know to go look for eggs. It will not be easy. They hide their nests extremely well. The radiata female will get antsy when the time draws near. They will likely pace the walls and hang out in areas where you don't usually see them. This is another reason why I think your enclosure is much too small for adult radiata. If the females can't walk around enough and find an area that THEY find suitable for laying, they can get egg bound and die. They might not want to lay in the center of activity, and in such a small open rectangular pen, the whole area there is the center of activity. The radiata will take hours to dig their nest hole and deposit their eggs. They will also disturb the earth in that area much more, and their nests should be easier to find.
7. How old are your radiata? The females typically won't lay until they are 9-10 years old in most cases, regardless of size.
8. Is the night house insulated? How are you heating it?
 

Maro2Bear

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How about placing some cameras that will possibly detect digging & laying activity. Their long-term presence in a few locations might give you some areas to inspect first.
 

Txjester

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1. Species should never be mixed. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
2. 18x24 is a great size for a box turtle group, but too small for adult radiata. I'd give them at least 1000 sq. feet and bigger would be better.
3. The sand pit serves no purpose and is a substantial impaction risk.
4. The radiated tortoises should not have access to any fruit.
5. Rats and squirrels will both eat baby turtles and tortoises. And so will many bird species. There are raptors everywhere, even if you don't see them.
6. When you know laying is imminent for the box turtles, you can start weighing the females daily. On the day they drop a lot of weight, you know to go look for eggs. It will not be easy. They hide their nests extremely well. The radiata female will get antsy when the time draws near. They will likely pace the walls and hang out in areas where you don't usually see them. This is another reason why I think your enclosure is much too small for adult radiata. If the females can't walk around enough and find an area that THEY find suitable for laying, they can get egg bound and die. They might not want to lay in the center of activity, and in such a small open rectangular pen, the whole area there is the center of activity. The radiata will take hours to dig their nest hole and deposit their eggs. They will also disturb the earth in that area much more, and their nests should be easier to find.
7. How old are your radiata? The females typically won't lay until they are 9-10 years old in most cases, regardless of size.
8. Is the night house insulated? How are you heating it?
Thanks for your feedback.
2. Correction 18x42, but to your point still not 1000 sq/ft. There are several hills (cant see in photo) and artifacts that keep it from being a bland flat rectangle. A larger flat area just gets paced, learned that years ago. As my group neither paces nor wears down foliage except for a few sleeping spots, I judged size adequate for their needs. (but your critique remains valid)
3. I initially added a sand pit as I thought the substrate may interest the boxies. Its 30" in circumference and 10 inches deep. A metal ring perimeter prevents the sand from spreading. And you are right, nobody uses it.
4. Including blackberries/tomatoes/peaches that fall to the ground, fruit makes up ~5% of available food.
5. The cameras nor I have ever caught daytime raptors in the neighborhood after 20 yrs of living here. I manage rats but the squirrels are something I havent found an effective way of eradicating. (I was worried about this one, you have justified my concern.)
6. Those horny little box turtles are at it all the time, Daily weighing for 6 months of the year with the herd would be a full-time job. (But valid suggestion if there were only a few females)
I am hoping for a more significant nest on the Radiata female.
7. My male is 11 inches (told 12 yrs) and female is 13 inches (told 10 yrs).
8. Hardie-board covering a layer of 3/4" plywood provides fireproof insulation, I can keep any nightly low temperatures above 60 even during the occasional hard freeze. Wireless thermometers/hygrometers are helpful. Using a ceramic and thermostat-driven oil-filled heater in combination, temp is easily regulated; yet unnecessary most of the year.
Time to find a legal way to rid myself of squirrels!
 

Txjester

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How about placing some cameras that will possibly detect digging & laying activity. Their long-term presence in a few locations might give you some areas to inspect first.
Thanks, i do have two cameras on the area (on the rock wall), but even going through hours of video, i dont ever catch those sneaky boogers.
 

wellington

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Thanks for your feedback.
2. Correction 18x42, but to your point still not 1000 sq/ft. There are several hills (cant see in photo) and artifacts that keep it from being a bland flat rectangle. A larger flat area just gets paced, learned that years ago. As my group neither paces nor wears down foliage except for a few sleeping spots, I judged size adequate for their needs. (but your critique remains valid)
3. I initially added a sand pit as I thought the substrate may interest the boxies. Its 30" in circumference and 10 inches deep. A metal ring perimeter prevents the sand from spreading. And you are right, nobody uses it.
4. Including blackberries/tomatoes/peaches that fall to the ground, fruit makes up ~5% of available food.
5. The cameras nor I have ever caught daytime raptors in the neighborhood after 20 yrs of living here. I manage rats but the squirrels are something I havent found an effective way of eradicating. (I was worried about this one, you have justified my concern.)
6. Those horny little box turtles are at it all the time, Daily weighing for 6 months of the year with the herd would be a full-time job. (But valid suggestion if there were only a few females)
I am hoping for a more significant nest on the Radiata female.
7. My male is 11 inches (told 12 yrs) and female is 13 inches (told 10 yrs).
8. Hardie-board covering a layer of 3/4" plywood provides fireproof insulation, I can keep any nightly low temperatures above 60 even during the occasional hard freeze. Wireless thermometers/hygrometers are helpful. Using a ceramic and thermostat-driven oil-filled heater in combination, temp is easily regulated; yet unnecessary most of the year.
Time to find a legal way to rid myself of squirrels!
How about addressing the mixing the Rads with the Boxies? Why would you not only house one Male with one female Rad, if I got that right, you have 2 total Rads, which is stressful to the one and only female but to jeopardize their health by housing them with Box turtles.
 

Tom

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Thanks for your feedback.
2. Correction 18x42, but to your point still not 1000 sq/ft. There are several hills (cant see in photo) and artifacts that keep it from being a bland flat rectangle. A larger flat area just gets paced, learned that years ago. As my group neither paces nor wears down foliage except for a few sleeping spots, I judged size adequate for their needs. (but your critique remains valid)
3. I initially added a sand pit as I thought the substrate may interest the boxies. Its 30" in circumference and 10 inches deep. A metal ring perimeter prevents the sand from spreading. And you are right, nobody uses it.
4. Including blackberries/tomatoes/peaches that fall to the ground, fruit makes up ~5% of available food.
5. The cameras nor I have ever caught daytime raptors in the neighborhood after 20 yrs of living here. I manage rats but the squirrels are something I havent found an effective way of eradicating. (I was worried about this one, you have justified my concern.)
6. Those horny little box turtles are at it all the time, Daily weighing for 6 months of the year with the herd would be a full-time job. (But valid suggestion if there were only a few females)
I am hoping for a more significant nest on the Radiata female.
7. My male is 11 inches (told 12 yrs) and female is 13 inches (told 10 yrs).
8. Hardie-board covering a layer of 3/4" plywood provides fireproof insulation, I can keep any nightly low temperatures above 60 even during the occasional hard freeze. Wireless thermometers/hygrometers are helpful. Using a ceramic and thermostat-driven oil-filled heater in combination, temp is easily regulated; yet unnecessary most of the year.
Time to find a legal way to rid myself of squirrels!
18x42 is definitely better, but I still recommend separating the two species. Different diets, different heat requirements, and definitely huge disease potential for species from different continents.

A pair is a bad idea. You need at least two or three females, or house the pair separately and introduce them periodically for breeding.

I think your male is too small. I have the same issue. My females are 15-16" and approaching 15 years old now, but the little male is only about 12 inches and 9 years old. I'm hoping for eggs this winter. Let us know if you get eggs anytime soon. I hope you do.

Here are two effective night box examples. I would not recommend CHEs over radiata. Carapace damage is likely. I also think 60 is too cold. I know they can survive it, but I don't think it is optimal. I set my thermostat for 70-75 during warm weather most of the year, and bump it up to 86 in winter when they have no other way to warm up on colder overcast winter days.

Squirrels. Man that's a problem. I'd suggest a multifaceted approach. Do NOT use poison of any kind. This is not only a threat to your chelonians if they nibble on a dead body, but it will kill all the local squirrel predators and you will soon be over run with them. I highly recommend the Squirrelinator: https://ruggedranch.net/catch-mor-traps/ This one is highly effective and I'll sometimes catch 8 at a time. Hav-a-heart traps also work and these will pick up the ones that don't go in the Squirrelinator. There are some damn fine, super accurate air rifles on the market now too. I got non-lead pellets for mine inn case any squirrels manage to abscond with a pellet lodged in them, and then get eaten by some other animal later. My rifle is also suppressed and hardly makes any noise while pushing a .25 caliber pellet to nearly 1000 fps. If you have the time and ability, you can get rid of some this way too.
 

Txjester

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How about addressing the mixing the Rads with the Boxies? Why would you not only house one Male with one female Rad, if I got that right, you have 2 total Rads, which is stressful to the one and only female but to jeopardize their health by housing them with Box turtles.
 

Txjester

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18x42 is definitely better, but I still recommend separating the two species. Different diets, different heat requirements, and definitely huge disease potential for species from different continents.

A pair is a bad idea. You need at least two or three females, or house the pair separately and introduce them periodically for breeding.

I think your male is too small. I have the same issue. My females are 15-16" and approaching 15 years old now, but the little male is only about 12 inches and 9 years old. I'm hoping for eggs this winter. Let us know if you get eggs anytime soon. I hope you do.

Here are two effective night box examples. I would not recommend CHEs over radiata. Carapace damage is likely. I also think 60 is too cold. I know they can survive it, but I don't think it is optimal. I set my thermostat for 70-75 during warm weather most of the year, and bump it up to 86 in winter when they have no other way to warm up on colder overcast winter days.

Squirrels. Man that's a problem. I'd suggest a multifaceted approach. Do NOT use poison of any kind. This is not only a threat to your chelonians if they nibble on a dead body, but it will kill all the local squirrel predators and you will soon be over run with them. I highly recommend the Squirrelinator: https://ruggedranch.net/catch-mor-traps/ This one is highly effective and I'll sometimes catch 8 at a time. Hav-a-heart traps also work and these will pick up the ones that don't go in the Squirrelinator. There are some damn fine, super accurate air rifles on the market now too. I got non-lead pellets for mine inn case any squirrels manage to abscond with a pellet lodged in them, and then get eaten by some other animal later. My rifle is also suppressed and hardly makes any noise while pushing a .25 caliber pellet to nearly 1000 fps. If you have the time and ability, you can get rid of some this way too.

How about addressing the mixing the Rads with the Boxies? Why would you not only house one Male with one female Rad, if I got that right, you have 2 total Rads, which is stressful to the one and only female but to jeopardize their health by housing them with Box turtles.
Thanks for pointing me to the Squirrelnator traps. (two will be here Monday). Shooting suppressed in the neighborhood would be more efficient, yet isn't something I prefer (for legal and safety risks) noting neighbors on all sides.
I have an additional female juvenile Radiata that is still only 7 inches (she has at least 5 years before I expect her to be of age). I continuously monitor for any overly-zealous male behaviors that would stress either female (or agresive behavior from anyone). I am prepared to separate as needed at that time. Additionally, if I dont observe breeding next spring, a time apart may do them some good.

Enclosure heating: The CHE is horizontal with a cage around it and 21" from the floor; this configuration removes any risk of shell damage. It is primarily a redundancy precaution. Even with my short mild winters, depending on one heater was an easy risk to mitigate. Every winter, how many posts do we see of failed heaters causing mortality? We agree, that the 2 nights I hit 60 for a couple of hours were not ideal and would be unacceptable if regular or with longer duration.

I enjoy the native boxies as they have no heating needs and dont bring any pathogens not already endemic to other reptiles/birds my region. The boxie herd hasn't had an introduced adult in over a decade. Native, anoles, ribbon snakes, fence swifts, tree frogs and toads all find sanctuary at the 5' waterfall and tiny pond in the enclosure. The area comes alive when the misters come on in the evenings. I cautiously observed the interactions between the boxies and Radiatas as they expressed ambivalence and anticlimactic results. I found that dietary needs of the box turtles higher protein requirements are satisfied with regular earthworms hand feeding in the spring, While some journals indicate 5% fruit is not recommended for Radiatas others support it, their constant grazing (IMO) provides a benefit available to few captive specimens.

Having covered native boxie & Radiata interactions/pathogens/diet/density/brumation, what risks do you find remaining?

Raising larger livestock taught me that if your animals are eating or trampling the grass down faster than it can grow, population density is not managed properly. Its sad to see outdoor tortoise enclosures where every living thing has been eaten and these grazing herbivores are kept in a desert motif, Be they for horses/dogs/shelled friends, animal enclosures that look like dusty/muddy barren stockyard corrals, void of growing vegetation, are less than ideal.
 

Tom

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Having covered native boxie & Radiata interactions/pathogens/diet/density/brumation, what risks do you find remaining?
These things are not "covered". You are taking a terrible risk, and you will learn the hard way why this should not be done as so many before you have learned.
 

Txjester

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Having covered native boxie & Radiata interactions/pathogens/diet/density/brumation, what risks do you find remaining?
While looking to expand my knowledge as I listen to others' opinions, feedback, learnings, and experience from the wealth of knowledge each of you have (@Tom ; @wellington ; @Maro2Bear), please dont perceive my consideration against a unique situation or critical logic challenges as being argumentative. I understand that broad rules across the ~500 species/subspecies of turtles and tortoises. However, we each have experienced a scenario where broad rules may or may not apply to individual scenarios. We all know that in the microcosm of husbandry, incompatibility may exist even where rules are followed.

Any thoughts on the above query? Feedback on either heating system redundancy or enclosure density levels not conducive to natural grazing?
 

Tom

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While looking to expand my knowledge as I listen to others' opinions, feedback, learnings, and experience from the wealth of knowledge each of you have (@Tom ; @wellington ; @Maro2Bear), please dont perceive my consideration against a unique situation or critical logic challenges as being argumentative. I understand that broad rules across the ~500 species/subspecies of turtles and tortoises. However, we each have experienced a scenario where broad rules may or may not apply to individual scenarios. We all know that in the microcosm of husbandry, incompatibility may exist even where rules are followed.

Any thoughts on the above query? Feedback on either heating system redundancy or enclosure density levels not conducive to natural grazing?
My concerns have nothing to do with natural grazing. Natural grazing is great. Your male radiata should be grazing naturally in his own large pen, as should your female, and juvenile. Likewise, your box turtles should be naturally grazing in their own enclosure.

You've been very polite, patient, respectful and articulate in your responses, but I will openly admit that I have grown weary of having this argument over and over again, year after year, with people who know less than me and have experienced less than me. I have to list my credentials so the opponent knows they are not dealing with a 15 year old kid who just got their first tortoise and likes to argue on the internet... This is not your fault, but you bear the brunt of my frustration none the less. Because you've been so kind, and obviously care about well being of the chelonians in your charge, I will give it another go.

Who is telling you these things? I am a career professional animal trainer. My hobbies outside of work are also animal training and behavior. Falconry, competitive protection dog training, scuba diving, etc... I started working with chelonians in 1979 when I acquired my first box turtle, and started being paid to care for them in 1986 at my first job in a retail pet shop. All day everyday I observe animal behavior to keep them fit and healthy, and have done so for several decades now. I hold college degrees in Animal Behavior Management (training) and Wildlife Education (teaching). I work with wild animals daily, both captive and in the wild. Some of them are very aggressive. My livelihood, and well being demand that I understand animal behavior.

Why does that matter? Most people are oblivious to signs of tortoise aggression. Everyone recognizes a dog snarling and growling, or a cat with its hackles up, but few people recognize hostility in a turtle or tortoise unless they are seeing overt biting chasing and ramming. Do you know any chameleon keepers? They tend to understand this better than most other reptile keepers. Just seeing another chameleon in an enclosure across the room is enough to stress a chameleon into angry or submissive coloration and make it go off food and hide. Tortoises are no different, but because they operate on one flat plane and don't change color, most people don't see the problem. Any time you have two animals interacting, one will be dominant and the other submissive. This can be seen even in flat worms. Common behaviors like sitting on the food pile, following, sleeping in same hide, and resting face to face are indicators of one tortoise telling the other to "Get out!", but if your pen is built correctly, they can't get out. I'm talking about pairs here. Group dynamics are different. These problems tend to dissipate tremendously in a group compared to a pair. You can see this manifested in 100s of examples here on the forum when people get a pair of tortoise clutch mates and one is huge in comparison to the other that has been living in the same enclosure and eating the same food. The chronic stress affects different individual animals differently. Some go hide and die. Some get sick because their immune system is hampered. Some mange to survive and carry on, leading some people to mistakenly believe and proclaim that "everything is fine". It isn't fine.

Frequently, animals from different continents, and different parts of the same continent, communicate differently. Their body language and territorial signals don't match and it can be stressful and confusing for both species. This would be the case with temperate North American box turtles and tropical Madagascan tortoises. How much stress is this causing your animals? It is impossible to calculate, but it IS causing stress, and they should not be subjected to this.

Additionally, there are many turtle and tortoises disease that are very difficult to diagnose in a living animal. A $1000 necropsy is often needed after the animal has died or been euthanized to diagnose some of the currently circulating pathogens. Ask me how I know this in such detail... You look at your animals and assume they are healthy. Even a vet may have examined them and conceded they appear to be healthy. Different species from around the world have evolved to deal with the pathogens from their native environments, but cannot handle pathogens from neighboring environments, or other continents. Think of the desert tortoises and mycobacterium. Or how about the Native Americans and the European diseases that came over with the white man? There is no way you can know that one of your species isn't going to give a deadly disease to the other. I have personally seen whole collections wiped out this way.

None of us can control what wild animals pass through, or over, our outdoor enclosures. If we want them live live outside in large spacious enclosure, we must take that risk. I think most everyone here will agree that the benefit outweighs the risk, and in practice, we seldom see any issues that could be attributed to contamination from a wild animal in an outdoor tortoise pen. This is NOT the same as intentionally housing different species together in a tight cluster in a small enclosure where they will daily encounter each others waste products and bodily fluids and share food. You sound like an intelligent person who has had at least some basic high school biology, if not much more schooling. Is the difference between transient wild animals from the native environment passing through and forced cohabitation with a different species from a different continent lost on you? Your previous posts tell me that you are fully capable of understanding the difference, and the difference in risk.

These animals should not be living together because of behavioral incompatibility, and because of disease risk. You can justify it in your mind all you want, but I have seen first hand the result of this ignorance, and it is devastating. Having seen it myself, and seen many other keepers experience this, I am trying to help you avoid having to learn these lessons the hard way. Have I achieved that goal?

I would not sell any of my babies to someone who was going to do what you are doing. Its a big mistake. I would gladly lose that sale.
 

jaizei

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Thanks for your feedback.
2. Correction 18x42, but to your point still not 1000 sq/ft. There are several hills (cant see in photo) and artifacts that keep it from being a bland flat rectangle. A larger flat area just gets paced, learned that years ago. As my group neither paces nor wears down foliage except for a few sleeping spots, I judged size adequate for their needs. (but your critique remains valid)
3. I initially added a sand pit as I thought the substrate may interest the boxies. Its 30" in circumference and 10 inches deep. A metal ring perimeter prevents the sand from spreading. And you are right, nobody uses it.
4. Including blackberries/tomatoes/peaches that fall to the ground, fruit makes up ~5% of available food.
5. The cameras nor I have ever caught daytime raptors in the neighborhood after 20 yrs of living here. I manage rats but the squirrels are something I havent found an effective way of eradicating. (I was worried about this one, you have justified my concern.)
6. Those horny little box turtles are at it all the time, Daily weighing for 6 months of the year with the herd would be a full-time job. (But valid suggestion if there were only a few females)
I am hoping for a more significant nest on the Radiata female.
7. My male is 11 inches (told 12 yrs) and female is 13 inches (told 10 yrs).
8. Hardie-board covering a layer of 3/4" plywood provides fireproof insulation, I can keep any nightly low temperatures above 60 even during the occasional hard freeze. Wireless thermometers/hygrometers are helpful. Using a ceramic and thermostat-driven oil-filled heater in combination, temp is easily regulated; yet unnecessary most of the year.
Time to find a legal way to rid myself of squirrels!

Whats the natural soil like in the area? If it's the typical rocky soil of central Texas, you could probably create an area thats more appealing. But I'd make it larger than 30" (I assume you meant diameter instead of circumference?), and wouldn't have anything bordering it. I'd use screened topsoil instead of sand.
 

Txjester

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Whats the natural soil like in the area? If it's the typical rocky soil of central Texas, you could probably create an area thats more appealing. But I'd make it larger than 30" (I assume you meant diameter instead of circumference?), and wouldn't have anything bordering it. I'd use screened topsoil instead of sand.
Diameter =30" (you are correct). The border is flush with the surface and does not impede even smaller specimens from traversing, it simply reduces losing contents to the surrounding area.
Good suggestion @jaizei .
You hit on something I had been considering, but hadnt seen or heard of anyone creating a soft 'egg-laying pit'. Comprised of a recessed 96x70x12" pit lined with flagstone, this would hold a yard of sandy loam and filled would be flush with ground level. Hoping this could create the perfect place to manage soft, high-drainage soil. Daily raking would show activity easily.
I assume this would be on the same direction as your description.
 

Txjester

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My concerns have nothing to do with natural grazing. Natural grazing is great. Your male radiata should be grazing naturally in his own large pen, as should your female, and juvenile. Likewise, your box turtles should be naturally grazing in their own enclosure.

You've been very polite, patient, respectful and articulate in your responses, but I will openly admit that I have grown weary of having this argument over and over again, year after year, with people who know less than me and have experienced less than me. I have to list my credentials so the opponent knows they are not dealing with a 15 year old kid who just got their first tortoise and likes to argue on the internet... This is not your fault, but you bear the brunt of my frustration none the less. Because you've been so kind, and obviously care about well being of the chelonians in your charge, I will give it another go.

Who is telling you these things? I am a career professional animal trainer. My hobbies outside of work are also animal training and behavior. Falconry, competitive protection dog training, scuba diving, etc... I started working with chelonians in 1979 when I acquired my first box turtle, and started being paid to care for them in 1986 at my first job in a retail pet shop. All day everyday I observe animal behavior to keep them fit and healthy, and have done so for several decades now. I hold college degrees in Animal Behavior Management (training) and Wildlife Education (teaching). I work with wild animals daily, both captive and in the wild. Some of them are very aggressive. My livelihood, and well being demand that I understand animal behavior.

Why does that matter? Most people are oblivious to signs of tortoise aggression. Everyone recognizes a dog snarling and growling, or a cat with its hackles up, but few people recognize hostility in a turtle or tortoise unless they are seeing overt biting chasing and ramming. Do you know any chameleon keepers? They tend to understand this better than most other reptile keepers. Just seeing another chameleon in an enclosure across the room is enough to stress a chameleon into angry or submissive coloration and make it go off food and hide. Tortoises are no different, but because they operate on one flat plane and don't change color, most people don't see the problem. Any time you have two animals interacting, one will be dominant and the other submissive. This can be seen even in flat worms. Common behaviors like sitting on the food pile, following, sleeping in same hide, and resting face to face are indicators of one tortoise telling the other to "Get out!", but if your pen is built correctly, they can't get out. I'm talking about pairs here. Group dynamics are different. These problems tend to dissipate tremendously in a group compared to a pair. You can see this manifested in 100s of examples here on the forum when people get a pair of tortoise clutch mates and one is huge in comparison to the other that has been living in the same enclosure and eating the same food. The chronic stress affects different individual animals differently. Some go hide and die. Some get sick because their immune system is hampered. Some mange to survive and carry on, leading some people to mistakenly believe and proclaim that "everything is fine". It isn't fine.

Frequently, animals from different continents, and different parts of the same continent, communicate differently. Their body language and territorial signals don't match and it can be stressful and confusing for both species. This would be the case with temperate North American box turtles and tropical Madagascan tortoises. How much stress is this causing your animals? It is impossible to calculate, but it IS causing stress, and they should not be subjected to this.

Additionally, there are many turtle and tortoises disease that are very difficult to diagnose in a living animal. A $1000 necropsy is often needed after the animal has died or been euthanized to diagnose some of the currently circulating pathogens. Ask me how I know this in such detail... You look at your animals and assume they are healthy. Even a vet may have examined them and conceded they appear to be healthy. Different species from around the world have evolved to deal with the pathogens from their native environments, but cannot handle pathogens from neighboring environments, or other continents. Think of the desert tortoises and mycobacterium. Or how about the Native Americans and the European diseases that came over with the white man? There is no way you can know that one of your species isn't going to give a deadly disease to the other. I have personally seen whole collections wiped out this way.

None of us can control what wild animals pass through, or over, our outdoor enclosures. If we want them live live outside in large spacious enclosure, we must take that risk. I think most everyone here will agree that the benefit outweighs the risk, and in practice, we seldom see any issues that could be attributed to contamination from a wild animal in an outdoor tortoise pen. This is NOT the same as intentionally housing different species together in a tight cluster in a small enclosure where they will daily encounter each others waste products and bodily fluids and share food. You sound like an intelligent person who has had at least some basic high school biology, if not much more schooling. Is the difference between transient wild animals from the native environment passing through and forced cohabitation with a different species from a different continent lost on you? Your previous posts tell me that you are fully capable of understanding the difference, and the difference in risk.

These animals should not be living together because of behavioral incompatibility, and because of disease risk. You can justify it in your mind all you want, but I have seen first hand the result of this ignorance, and it is devastating. Having seen it myself, and seen many other keepers experience this, I am trying to help you avoid having to learn these lessons the hard way. Have I achieved that goal?

I would not sell any of my babies to someone who was going to do what you are doing. Its a big mistake. I would gladly lose that sale.
I appreciate your concerns and neither take them lightly or dismiss them. I too have a solid background and relevant graduate and professional credentials. The tortoise still in my care the longest (dont worry housed elsewhere) was purchased as a hatchling in 1991. At the time, I gave up keeping an apartment full of other reptiles as too time-consuming while acquiring a pre-med undergrad. My understanding of microbiology is adequate.

I respect your credentials, yet I am neither 'most people' nor a 15 yr old with a Sulcata in a 10-gallon. Having science-based logical dialogue can be productive for both of us. Who knows, maybe you will consider system redundancy in your housing design. We can differ on the risk assessment associated with particular shelters or this instance of cohabitation, thats ok.

I too have decades of success and both house and breed a variety of pre-cities specimens in multiple enclosures. I came with a particular query, to which I immediately acted upon your related response (squirelnator). Thank you for that suggestion or any other suggestions related to locating buried clutches in large natural habitats.
 

Maggie3fan

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My concerns have nothing to do with natural grazing. Natural grazing is great. Your male radiata should be grazing naturally in his own large pen, as should your female, and juvenile. Likewise, your box turtles should be naturally grazing in their own enclosure.

You've been very polite, patient, respectful and articulate in your responses, but I will openly admit that I have grown weary of having this argument over and over again, year after year, with people who know less than me and have experienced less than me. I have to list my credentials so the opponent knows they are not dealing with a 15 year old kid who just got their first tortoise and likes to argue on the internet... This is not your fault, but you bear the brunt of my frustration none the less. Because you've been so kind, and obviously care about well being of the chelonians in your charge, I will give it another go.

Who is telling you these things? I am a career professional animal trainer. My hobbies outside of work are also animal training and behavior. Falconry, competitive protection dog training, scuba diving, etc... I started working with chelonians in 1979 when I acquired my first box turtle, and started being paid to care for them in 1986 at my first job in a retail pet shop. All day everyday I observe animal behavior to keep them fit and healthy, and have done so for several decades now. I hold college degrees in Animal Behavior Management (training) and Wildlife Education (teaching). I work with wild animals daily, both captive and in the wild. Some of them are very aggressive. My livelihood, and well being demand that I understand animal behavior.

Why does that matter? Most people are oblivious to signs of tortoise aggression. Everyone recognizes a dog snarling and growling, or a cat with its hackles up, but few people recognize hostility in a turtle or tortoise unless they are seeing overt biting chasing and ramming. Do you know any chameleon keepers? They tend to understand this better than most other reptile keepers. Just seeing another chameleon in an enclosure across the room is enough to stress a chameleon into angry or submissive coloration and make it go off food and hide. Tortoises are no different, but because they operate on one flat plane and don't change color, most people don't see the problem. Any time you have two animals interacting, one will be dominant and the other submissive. This can be seen even in flat worms. Common behaviors like sitting on the food pile, following, sleeping in same hide, and resting face to face are indicators of one tortoise telling the other to "Get out!", but if your pen is built correctly, they can't get out. I'm talking about pairs here. Group dynamics are different. These problems tend to dissipate tremendously in a group compared to a pair. You can see this manifested in 100s of examples here on the forum when people get a pair of tortoise clutch mates and one is huge in comparison to the other that has been living in the same enclosure and eating the same food. The chronic stress affects different individual animals differently. Some go hide and die. Some get sick because their immune system is hampered. Some mange to survive and carry on, leading some people to mistakenly believe and proclaim that "everything is fine". It isn't fine.

Frequently, animals from different continents, and different parts of the same continent, communicate differently. Their body language and territorial signals don't match and it can be stressful and confusing for both species. This would be the case with temperate North American box turtles and tropical Madagascan tortoises. How much stress is this causing your animals? It is impossible to calculate, but it IS causing stress, and they should not be subjected to this.

Additionally, there are many turtle and tortoises disease that are very difficult to diagnose in a living animal. A $1000 necropsy is often needed after the animal has died or been euthanized to diagnose some of the currently circulating pathogens. Ask me how I know this in such detail... You look at your animals and assume they are healthy. Even a vet may have examined them and conceded they appear to be healthy. Different species from around the world have evolved to deal with the pathogens from their native environments, but cannot handle pathogens from neighboring environments, or other continents. Think of the desert tortoises and mycobacterium. Or how about the Native Americans and the European diseases that came over with the white man? There is no way you can know that one of your species isn't going to give a deadly disease to the other. I have personally seen whole collections wiped out this way.

None of us can control what wild animals pass through, or over, our outdoor enclosures. If we want them live live outside in large spacious enclosure, we must take that risk. I think most everyone here will agree that the benefit outweighs the risk, and in practice, we seldom see any issues that could be attributed to contamination from a wild animal in an outdoor tortoise pen. This is NOT the same as intentionally housing different species together in a tight cluster in a small enclosure where they will daily encounter each others waste products and bodily fluids and share food. You sound like an intelligent person who has had at least some basic high school biology, if not much more schooling. Is the difference between transient wild animals from the native environment passing through and forced cohabitation with a different species from a different continent lost on you? Your previous posts tell me that you are fully capable of understanding the difference, and the difference in risk.

These animals should not be living together because of behavioral incompatibility, and because of disease risk. You can justify it in your mind all you want, but I have seen first hand the result of this ignorance, and it is devastating. Having seen it myself, and seen many other keepers experience this, I am trying to help you avoid having to learn these lessons the hard way. Have I achieved that goal?

I would not sell any of my babies to someone who was going to do what you are doing. Its a big mistake. I would gladly lose that sale.
Well Tom...I'm just gonna have to copy this...and just use it, over and over and over ad infintum...
 

Maggie3fan

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Well, now that the 2 of you are starting to show semi polite fangs...Box turtles are semi aquatic, Radiata are not. Box turtles are native to the US, Radiatia are not...Just because you haven't had trouble up to now, does not mean all is well in your reptile world.You don't know and cannot see that someone involved is not very happy. If it were the great place you are trying to make it seem...why are your baby box turtles taking off instead of hanging around in paradise...because it's not paradise...they want and need water not sand...box turtles swim and dive for slugs...you have yours living in the Mojave...please for the sake of your animals, stay here and pay attention and make their lives better...
This is part of my box turtle pond...they have swum over to the other side and are hunting for slugs...100_2832.JPG
 

jaizei

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Diameter =30" (you are correct). The border is flush with the surface and does not impede even smaller specimens from traversing, it simply reduces losing contents to the surrounding area.
Good suggestion @jaizei .
You hit on something I had been considering, but hadnt seen or heard of anyone creating a soft 'egg-laying pit'. Comprised of a recessed 96x70x12" pit lined with flagstone, this would hold a yard of sandy loam and filled would be flush with ground level. Hoping this could create the perfect place to manage soft, high-drainage soil. Daily raking would show activity easily.
I assume this would be on the same direction as your description.

True, I was thinking more about the border with the 30" area and it creating an 'otherness' to the area for the animal. Not so much it impeding them. With a larger area it would probably matter less. I haven't done it for the express purpose of making an egg laying pit, I think of it more as 'the area with good dirt.' Theres good chance that they dont use it if theres some 'known only to turtles' criteria it doesnt meet. But a larger area with 'good' dirt might check all the boxes in at least part of it.
 

Tom

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I appreciate your concerns and neither take them lightly or dismiss them. I too have a solid background and relevant graduate and professional credentials. The tortoise still in my care the longest (dont worry housed elsewhere) was purchased as a hatchling in 1991. At the time, I gave up keeping an apartment full of other reptiles as too time-consuming while acquiring a pre-med undergrad. My understanding of microbiology is adequate.

I respect your credentials, yet I am neither 'most people' nor a 15 yr old with a Sulcata in a 10-gallon. Having science-based logical dialogue can be productive for both of us. Who knows, maybe you will consider system redundancy in your housing design. We can differ on the risk assessment associated with particular shelters or this instance of cohabitation, thats ok.

I too have decades of success and both house and breed a variety of pre-cities specimens in multiple enclosures. I came with a particular query, to which I immediately acted upon your related response (squirelnator). Thank you for that suggestion or any other suggestions related to locating buried clutches in large natural habitats.
I thank you for this response, and hope to converse more going forward.

I am curious though: You've been given several reason to not mix species. What is the reason why you would choose to do it in the first place, and then continue to do it after being made aware of the substantial risks to your animals? More succinctly, I've spelled out why not to do it, and now I'm wondering why you are doing it.
 

Yvonne G

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. . . Thank you for that suggestion or any other suggestions related to locating buried clutches in large natural habitats.


Get an egg sniffing dog! Today I was excavating a radiata nest and I saw my dog scratching at the dirt with her huge paws in another area. I went over there and she was digging up a nest. She's addicted to eating rotten, well actually, ANY buried eggs. It turned out to be an old nest with a couple rotten eggs in it, but I salvaged two that look like they might be ok.
 

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