Brumation ?

AraBlu

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Hey! Okay, my two yearlings decided to burrow in their enclosure and are still visible but obviously in brumation. Should I now put them in a styrofoam cooler? Is it okay to leave them outdoors if no predators have access to them? Our temps have been in the high 80s and are going to continue to be in the 80s, I offered them food the other day and I soaked them and I am worried about the food that is still in their gut. How often if ever should I try to offer them water and soak? Thanks!
 

Tom

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They need two weeks of soaks, warm temps and no food, before brumation. I would never leave them outside for brumation. Its too unnatural and unpredictable. Many of them don't survive that way. Indoors is the way to go, but the temp needs to be a constant 40-50 degrees. That will be difficult in Mesa. If its too warm, they will metabolize their fat reserves too quickly.
 

AraBlu

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They need two weeks of soaks, warm temps and no food, before brumation. I would never leave them outside for brumation. Its too unnatural and unpredictable. Many of them don't survive that way. Indoors is the way to go, but the temp needs to be a constant 40-50 degrees. That will be difficult in Mesa. If its too warm, they will metabolize their fat reserves too quickly.

Thanks! You're right, we normally don't see 40-50° so can I continue to keep them outdoors and bring them in to soak and still feed them outside? Again, thanks for your response, I really want to do whats right for these two, they are awesome and when we moved out west, I wanted to make sure we had at least one, I feel its our responsibility to have them since so many are available for adoption.
 

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WInter is tough in warmer climates like ours. Its not consistently cold enough to hibernate/brumate, but its not consistently warm enough to keep them up and eating outdoors either.

Since we have these tortoise in an unnatural captive situation, I feel the responsible thing to do is to give them some "unnatural" human help. You need to either bring them indoors to a suitably heated and lit enclosure and prevent hibernation, or you need to prepare them properly and then hibernate them at the correct temps. Anything in between is potentially fatal.
 

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Here is a reply I did for someone else's thread yesterday about this subject. Maybe it will help you too.

"They will not be able to hibernate at room temp. Its too warm. You will need to decide to either keep them up, or hibernate them properly. Right now they are in a bit of a "limbo", and that is not good. I've used the following methods for dozens of DTs from babies to adults, as well as many other tortoise and reptile species that come from areas with a natural hibernation period.

While I have kept hibernating species awake through winter and I know others have successfully done it too, it is my opinion that species that hibernate in the wild should also hibernate in captivity. It just needs to be done correctly. Leaving them outside to figure it out and deal with the rigors of winter in the small spaces (like backyards) that we stick them in, is not my idea of doing it "correctly". I know far too many that have died this way. Don't let these horror stories from people who did not properly prepare, or hibernate their animals in a safe, controlled way, scare you. Hibernation is totally natural and totally safe when a few simple guidelines are observed. Simple Guidelines:
1. Bring them down, and up, gradually.
2. Make sure their gut is empty before dropping temps. Two weeks of no food with the normal warm temps should do it.
3. Make sure they are well hydrated by soaking them, before and after hibernation.
4. Make sure the temperature is consistent and cold enough for the entire hibernation time.
5. Don't let them do it in a self dug burrow in your backyard. NOT safe!

To keep them up: You will need to keep them warm, day and night. The enclosure needs to be nice and bright too, so add a 6500K florescent tube, if need be. I set lights to come on an hour or two before the sun comes up and stay on for a good two hours after the sun goes down. Daily warm soaks, or every other day, seems to help convince their brains that its not sleepy time. I would still give them outside time all winter long as long as its sunny and warm-ish. The sun really helps and we have such nice mild winters here in SoCal.

To hibernate them: The dangerous parts of hibernation (flooding, burrow collapse, rodents, temperature extremes, etc..) can all be eliminated by bringing them inside into controlled conditions and prepping them correctly. While they have adapted to survive these conditions out in the wild for millennia, our back yards are not the wild. Not even close. The shallow burrows they construct in our yards are not enough to protect them from the whims of a cruel mother nature, and as Yvonne adeptly pointed out, many of them don't survive hibernation in the wild, or outdoors in captivity either. I have hibernated all ages of DTs using the following methods: It is often said that "tortoises do better outside". True some of the time in some instances, but not all of the time in all instances. Most babies actually do better inside most of the time. As such, when night temps really start to drop, as they did about two weeks ago, I bring small hibernating species of tortoises inside to their indoor set ups every evening. I feed them up for a good two or three weeks, and soak them daily or every other day. Then I leave the timers and heat and everything on and running, but I quit feeding them. I give them around two weeks with no food, daily soaks, and warm day time temps, as usual. After those two weeks, I start adjusting the light timers down and raise the fixtures a bit to lower basking temps. I let night temps drop as low as is practical for indoors. I'll do this for another week or two. Then I put them into their individual hibernacula. I use plastic shoe boxes, or something similar, with a couple of inches of substrate on the bottom. I keep them dry at this time. In the past I've used non-functioning fridges or freezers laid on their backs in a cool area to keep the shoe boxes in. Currently the floor of my garage stays around 50-55 all winter and I've used that for the last few years. The problem is that we keep having these weird warm winters with daily highs in the 80s or 90s sometimes, for days or weeks on end. Good for my non-hibernating species, but not so good for the hibernators. This year I'm getting them a dedicated fridge, so I don't have to worry about the weather and I won't have to try to fight the temperature outside. I'll set it to around 45 degrees F. I let first timers go for 8-10 weeks under these controlled conditions. Older ones will go for 12-16 weeks. I watch the temps, but I don't mess with them during hibernation. When the weather starts to warm up, I gradually warm up the fridge and let warmer air into the hibernation area, and at some point after a few days, I pull them out, soak them in shallow room temp water, and put them back into their indoor enclosures with no heat. Just room temp. I soak daily for a bout two weeks. After a few days, I will turn the lights on. I leave the fixtures at their higher adjustment at first and gradually, over the course of a few days, lower them back down to get the right basking temps. After the tortoises activity level comes up, and they start moving around more, I will begin offering food, and letting them run around in their outdoor pens on warmer days, but I still bring them in to escape the cold nights. For older/bigger tortoises that can't come back inside, I simply use an outdoor heated night box to do just about the same thing. The night box more or less takes the place of the indoor enclosure and gives me a way to keep them warmer at night while preparing for hibernation or coming out of it.

The above methods have worked perfectly for me for many years with a wide variety of reptile species. The only time I ever lost an animal during hibernation is when I took the advice of a very knowledgeable man, who didn't understand our climate, and let my tegus hibernate outside as he did in his climate. I lost two out of three that year. It was heartbreaking.

I don't have set dates for any of this, and I sort of go by "feel" and the weather on either end of hibernation. If we have a long summer with a warm fall, I wait longer to put them down. If we have an early spring, I wake them up sooner. Generally I try to get them down by December, and get them up sometime in March.


I know that is a lot to read. Please feel free to ask lots of questions. We will help you, whichever way you decide to go."
 

AraBlu

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Here is a reply I did for someone else's thread yesterday about this subject. Maybe it will help you too.

I know that is a lot to read. Please feel free to ask lots of questions. We will help you, whichever way you decide to go."

Since they're approximately 6" can I keep them in a rubbermaid bin and use cypress mulch? I understand both sides of the issue and I think i would opt to keep them awake then. Will it wreak havoc on they system to have no rest?
 

Tom

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I'd use something bigger. I'd want at least 4x8' for a six inch tortoise.

To hibernate or not is a very debatable and controversial subject. Both sides of the argument have valid points, and both sides have apparently healthy animals. You do not have to hibernate. It won't harm them. I however, think that you should hibernate captive animals that would hibernate in the wild. It just needs to be done safely and correctly. Leaving them outside is neither safe, nor correct in my opinion.
 

Tom

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... And your yearling DTs are 6"? That's pretty big for a yearling.
 

AraBlu

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... And your yearling DTs are 6"? That's pretty big for a yearling.

Tom, they are closer to two years and looking at a ruler, I would have to say they are closer to 4-4 1/2"... I agree, species that are meant to hibernate should be allowed to do so. if I had a space for a styro cooler, I would try to do that but again, as you know, our temps don't go that low. I am just trying to do whats best for them... I honestly appreciate your input!
 

Tom

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Tom, they are closer to two years and looking at a ruler, I would have to say they are closer to 4-4 1/2"... I agree, species that are meant to hibernate should be allowed to do so. if I had a space for a styro cooler, I would try to do that but again, as you know, our temps don't go that low. I am just trying to do whats best for them... I honestly appreciate your input!

I face the same dilemma every year here. During normal winters here the floor of my garage stays right around 50, which is just on the borderline of acceptable. It has worked for me, but there have been a few times where we had warm spells and I've had to apply some ice bottle action to keep hibernating reptiles cool enough. This year I'm getting a dedicated hibernation fridge, so temps will be prefect all the time, and I won't have to worry about them.
 

AraBlu

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I face the same dilemma every year here. During normal winters here the floor of my garage stays right around 50, which is just on the borderline of acceptable. It has worked for me, but there have been a few times where we had warm spells and I've had to apply some ice bottle action to keep hibernating reptiles cool enough. This year I'm getting a dedicated hibernation fridge, so temps will be prefect all the time, and I won't have to worry about them.

I wonder if I could get one of the ones that kids use in dorms... they're reasonably priced and I could use it afterwards in the summer etc. Hmmmm..
 

AraBlu

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Okay, now I have another question. Could I use a concrete mixing tub like those availabe from Home Depot, Lowes, etc?
 

Yvonne G

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For hibernation? I like to use cardboard because it doesn't sweat. You want your tortoise to stay dry and if you cover a plastic tub, the respirations from the tortoise may make plastic sweat.
 

AraBlu

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For hibernation? I like to use cardboard because it doesn't sweat. You want your tortoise to stay dry and if you cover a plastic tub, the respirations from the tortoise may make plastic sweat.

No, to bring them in for the season and keep them up. Its pretty much been established that our temps in Mesa would really not allow me to keep them anywhere excpet in a refrigerator so I will keep them up and go from there.
 

Tom

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Okay, now I have another question. Could I use a concrete mixing tub like those availabe from Home Depot, Lowes, etc?

You could but those are pretty small for a 4-5" tortoise. They have those big giant horse troughs at any feed store that sells horse supplies. That would be more suitable if you are looking for something to buy. I find it cheaper and easier to slap some plywood and 2x4s together and make a 4x8' enclosure. If you make the walls 16" high, you can do it with just two sheets of plywood.
 

AraBlu

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You could but those are pretty small for a 4-5" tortoise. They have those big giant horse troughs at any feed store that sells horse supplies. That would be more suitable if you are looking for something to buy. I find it cheaper and easier to slap some plywood and 2x4s together and make a 4x8' enclosure. If you make the walls 16" high, you can do it with just two sheets of plywood.

Tom, thanks... I have one problem, I don't have 8' to spare in my home; what would be the smallest I could humanely do for the two? Would I need a basking light? I would assume I could use a full-spectrum incandescent bulb...
 

Tom

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Tom, thanks... I have one problem, I don't have 8' to spare in my home; what would be the smallest I could humanely do for the two? Would I need a basking light? I would assume I could use a full-spectrum incandescent bulb...

The bigger the better, but just go as large as you can.

Yes you need a basking bulb. Just a regular 65 watt bulb from the hardware store will work. That in combination with a 6500k 48" florescent tube, both on the same timer for 13-14 hours a day will keep it warm and bright and hopefully hold off their urge to sleep for the winter. Since you will still take them to their outdoor enclosure during the warmer sunny winter days, you don't need indoor UV. If you still want indoor UV anyway, use a mercury vapor bulb instead of the 65 watt flood.

Also, I think I've said it before, but they really should not be living as a pair. They don't want or need other tortoises around, and its just a question of time until it causes an obvious problem. I say "obvious" problem because it is causing more subtle problems right now. Here is a thread for more explanation if you want it: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/pairs.34837/

This might help too. I typed this up for russians, but the care for russians and DTs is essentially the same. There are some housing ideas here:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/semi-underground-russian-box.98590/

Seen this one too?
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
 
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