Burmating 30 yr old Desert Tortoise for the 1st time

JudyR

New Member
Joined
May 30, 2019
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Chandler AZ
Good Evening Everyone,
Hi - I need advice on burmating a tortoise for the first time specifically in Phoenix. This weekend I went to visit my mother in Tucson, she has three-30 yr old tortoises. I went outside with her to feed them and she mentioned that they were beginning to eat a lot more as they will soon be ready to hibernate. This is the first time I've actually paid attention to all 3. I have a spoiled Sulcata that's 15 lbs, so her tortoises always appear much smaller, but this time I noticed that this one is significantly smaller (~ 5lbs). She says it's so much smaller because the other 2 have always eaten its food and this summer she found it on it's back twice. I also saw that when it tried to eat leaves or grass one of the other ones comes up to it, nods its head up and down and the little one backs away and tucks his head into it's shell. I couldn't ignore the bullying so without thinking it through, I brought it home to Chandler, Az.

Now I'm not sure what to do with him. I've put him in a side yard that has a gate to separate it from the rest of the yard...Sully's territory. Comparing him to my beast, he seems kind of timid, doesn't eat much and when it gets dark he just stops in his tracks for the night.

How will I know when he's ready to hibernate? And until he does hibernate should I keep him warm during the nights or should I bring him inside? When do tortoises usually burmate in Phoenix? Is it the temperature or the amount of daylight that determines when he's ready?

This evening he just stopped next to the block wall in the middle of the yard, no bushes, corners or anything. I picked him up and moved him to a covered tunnel-like area we made for him.


Thank you....I appreciate any advice. :)

P.S. I wrote about the tortoises last year and they were on a waiting list for adoption through the Desert Museum but with COVID, the program was put on hold.
 

Lokkje

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Messages
1,112
Location (City and/or State)
Phoenix
Hello and welcome. I have one Texas desert and two Sonoran desert tortoises. The Texas was purchased at the old Thomas mall before it was torn down in Phoenix. The two Sonoran’s were hatched in my backyard and they’re the last of my tortoises. I have placed all of them in loving homes. The bobbing behavior is a mating behavior both males and females will do but is primarily a male trying to mate with a female. The male will Bob and start biting the females front legs and shell, the female will turn and spin to get away from the male and the male will continue to bite and ram the female until she’s submissive and then mount. Females will occasionally bob and occasionally ram but it’s mostly a male mating behavior. I am hoping you were not keeping your desert tortoise in the same area as your sully as the Sulcata could literally kill the desert tortoise. You should not mix species in the same area. You need to separate them. When the desert tortoise is ready to brumate feeding will slow down. They need to have a safe place. I would suggest you read the care sheet at the beginning of the thread carefully. I have a shed and I use the double cardboard box with newspaper method after they start to go into their burrows. One year I did leave my tortoises in the burrow and one of the burrows flooded and I ended up with a tortoise with a respiratory infection that did clear but was difficult for the tortoise and I don’t intend to have repeated. My three tortoises do live together but it is one male and two female and they were selected specifically because they are pretty non-aggressive and get along reasonably well with one another but I supplement feed them separately as the smaller female pushes off the larger female. My male which is the Texas tortoise is constantly harassing the females and mounting them but they are pretty good about just strolling away as he’s small and happily they don’t fight. At this time, all three are still quite active and feeding and the male is still mounting and I am not expecting for them to slow down for a few more weeks While high temperatures are up in the hundreds they are still basking and zipping along. There are many other members of the forum that are much more knowledgeable than I am and I am sure they will help as well. Again, welcome
 

KarenSoCal

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 8, 2017
Messages
5,470
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Hi! Welcome to the forum!

I am so glad that you removed the tort from that terrible bullying! But now, your mom has 2 together which never works. One of them will bully the other. They will need to be separated ASAP.

Often, it is recommended to not brumate a tortoise the first winter it's with you. Especially since it's so late in the season. It is very stressful for a tort to move to a new place, and it will probably kind of mess up his internal schedule. To keep him up you would need to bring him inside, keep him warm, and keep bright lights on him for longer than usual each day.

If you want him to brumate, he'll fill up for a couple weeks, then will slow down and finally stop eating completely. He must not eat anything for at least 2 weeks before going to sleep. During this time his temps and hours of daylight must be slowly shortened until he is close to 50°F, when he'll be asleep and can be put wherever you want him to sleep. Some people use a box in a garage or shed. I put mine in an operating fridge set at 50°. You need a place that has steady temps of 45-50° for the whole winter. Left on his own, he judges the timing according to temps, length of day, and angle of the sun.
 

GreenKnight33

New Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hello!

I had a question about the fridge option. I might be missing something but is the door actually closed? I'm thinking a closed refrigerator would result in suffocation. Can someone please chime in? I think I'm missing something here.

Thank you!!
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
91,331
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Your mom has it backwards about feeding a desert tortoise prior to brumation. Tortoises STOP eating a couple weeks before so that their digestive tract will be empty. Otherwise the food will just rot over the winter and the tortoise will die.

I've had desert tortoises for over 40 years. I have never tried the refrigerator method. At first, I would box them up in cardboard boxes filled with shredded newspaper then place the boxes in unplugged chest type freezers, that I have in an old abandoned house at the back of my lot. I placed a pencil across one corner between the lid and the freezer. Then my brumation of them evolved to leaving them in their outside shelter for the winter. The shelter is up on a slightly elevated part of the yard under a mulberry tree. First I placed down masonry caps, then built walls out of cinderblocks. I lined the walls with rigid foam. The roof is a piece of plywood also lined with rigid foam. When the tortoises are ready to brumate and have stopped coming out of the shelter, I fill the shelter with all the leaves I can rake up around the yard and block the door so they can't get out and other critters can't get in. They have brumated like this for many years.

If you do opt to brumate in the fridge, you close the door. There is enough air inside for them to breathe.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello!

I had a question about the fridge option. I might be missing something but is the door actually closed? I'm thinking a closed refrigerator would result in suffocation. Can someone please chime in? I think I'm missing something here.

Thank you!!
Your fridge is not air tight. There are holes that allow the pressure to equalize and hole for wires and tubes to pass through.

Also, a brumating tortoise needs very little oxygen. Just opening the door very few days would circulate enough fresh air in, even if the fridge was air tight, which it isn't.

Do you really think we'd recommend this if tortoises suffocated in fridges? There are dozens of people here that have been doing this for dozens of years.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Good Evening Everyone,
Hi - I need advice on burmating a tortoise for the first time specifically in Phoenix. This weekend I went to visit my mother in Tucson, she has three-30 yr old tortoises. I went outside with her to feed them and she mentioned that they were beginning to eat a lot more as they will soon be ready to hibernate. This is the first time I've actually paid attention to all 3. I have a spoiled Sulcata that's 15 lbs, so her tortoises always appear much smaller, but this time I noticed that this one is significantly smaller (~ 5lbs). She says it's so much smaller because the other 2 have always eaten its food and this summer she found it on it's back twice. I also saw that when it tried to eat leaves or grass one of the other ones comes up to it, nods its head up and down and the little one backs away and tucks his head into it's shell. I couldn't ignore the bullying so without thinking it through, I brought it home to Chandler, Az.

Now I'm not sure what to do with him. I've put him in a side yard that has a gate to separate it from the rest of the yard...Sully's territory. Comparing him to my beast, he seems kind of timid, doesn't eat much and when it gets dark he just stops in his tracks for the night.

How will I know when he's ready to hibernate? And until he does hibernate should I keep him warm during the nights or should I bring him inside? When do tortoises usually burmate in Phoenix? Is it the temperature or the amount of daylight that determines when he's ready?

This evening he just stopped next to the block wall in the middle of the yard, no bushes, corners or anything. I picked him up and moved him to a covered tunnel-like area we made for him.


Thank you....I appreciate any advice. :)

P.S. I wrote about the tortoises last year and they were on a waiting list for adoption through the Desert Museum but with COVID, the program was put on hold.
These will help you:

Scroll down to post number 19 for a more thorough breakdown of what to do:
 

GreenKnight33

New Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
California
Your fridge is not air tight. There are holes that allow the pressure to equalize and hole for wires and tubes to pass through.

Also, a brumating tortoise needs very little oxygen. Just opening the door very few days would circulate enough fresh air in, even if the fridge was air tight, which it isn't.

Do you really think we'd recommend this if tortoises suffocated in fridges? There are dozens of people here that have been doing this for dozens of years.
Thanks Tom (and Yvonne) for the explanation. Definitely not thinking anyone was promoting something to suffocate tortoises, just wasn't aware of the fact that there is enough air. I saw too many Public Service Announcements as a kid saying to never play in an abandoned refrigerator (so assumed they are much more airtight). Thanks again!
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thanks Tom (and Yvonne) for the explanation. Definitely not thinking anyone was promoting something to suffocate tortoises, just wasn't aware of the fact that there is enough air. I saw too many Public Service Announcements as a kid saying to never play in an abandoned refrigerator (so assumed they are much more airtight). Thanks again!
I saw those ads too, and of course I had to test it out to see what it was all about. Fridges prior to the 70s might have been airtight, and they also had a latching mechanism that would hold them shut, so that they couldn't be open without pulling on that latch handle from the outside. By the time I was born, fridges didn't have that latch anymore and even a little kid could simply push it open from the inside.
 

GreenKnight33

New Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2021
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
California
I saw those ads too, and of course I had to test it out to see what it was all about. Fridges prior to the 70s might have been airtight, and they also had a latching mechanism that would hold them shut, so that they couldn't be open without pulling on that latch handle from the outside. By the time I was born, fridges didn't have that latch anymore and even a little kid could simply push it open from the inside.
My wife and I were talking about this last night, and I think your right. We are of a certain age, where at the time we were kids, they must have been transitioning from the 'latch' kind to today's kind, so lots of people were dumping out the latch kind. We both remember though being really paranoid about fridges.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
My wife and I were talking about this last night, and I think your right. We are of a certain age, where at the time we were kids, they must have been transitioning from the 'latch' kind to today's kind, so lots of people were dumping out the latch kind. We both remember though being really paranoid about fridges.
I was born in the early 70s and I remember exactly what you are referring to. Glad they changed it!

Today's fridges are safe for tortoises AND small children. :)
 
Top