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HELP! Rescued two Desert Tortoises today and need advice! Winter is coming!* In Connecticut

Discussion in 'North American Tortoises (genus Gopherus)' started by SLawless04, Oct 15, 2017.

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  1. SLawless04

    SLawless04 New Member

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    (Scroll down if you don't feel like reading the full story, questions are at the bottom)

    A few hours ago, I took possession of two Desert Tortoises. I am told they are about 20 years old. They had been living with an elderly man for the past decade, who worked years ago as a wildlife biologist in a children's museum here in Connecticut. The story I was told is they were taken as hatchlings about 20 years ago by someone who visited California on vacation, plucked the baby Tortoises from their home, and brought them to Connecticut. That person had them for the first decade or so of their lives. They are believe to be brother and sister. They were then given to the aforementioned elderly man, who has allowed them to hibernate each Winter indoors, while they spent the warmer months in an enclosure in his back yard.

    I was offered these Tortoises by the man who is moving out of his house into an assisted living facility. I saw the tortoises for the first time today and did not have the heart to leave them one more day after seeing them. Though the man may have had the best intentions, they do not appear (as far as I can tell) to be in great shape. They both have some pyramiding of their shells, with the female's entire shell appearing to be deformed. The male is much more active. I am told he mounts her frequently, and she once layed a couple eggs. However, after taking them out in the Sun for an hour of so, they started eating every dandelion green that I put in front of them. Their eyes do appear clear, though the right eye of the male did do something weird; what appears to be the inner eyelid actually came out from under they eye for a few seconds. Think entropian in a dog, but very short lived.

    I work as a manager of a veterinary hospital here in Connecticut. I have also owned a Russian Tortoise that I rescued 2 years ago. Though the veterinary hospital I work at doesn't have a reptile veterinarian on staff, we have a vet that sees reptiles on a wildlife basis, so I will be bringing them in this week. I will also be sending out fecal samples to IDEXX Labratories once the tortoises give me some fresh feces. I am then hoping to use some industry connections to get them seen by an actual reptile veterinarian. I also have access to any medications they may need. Ultimately, I want what is best for them, even if that means passing them on to someone else. I think the elderly man that owned them wants that as well.

    Measurements:
    The male's shell is 8.5"x6"
    The female's shell is 10"x7"

    So here are the questions:

    -How bad are their shells? What do they need ASAP?

    -should they be allowed to hibernate this Winter or are they better off with some UVB (mercury vapor bulb) and Calcium therapy all Winter long?

    -Do their heads appear deformed?

    -Is it common at all for these Tortoises to have temporary entropian (eyelid folding out past the eyeball)?

    -Is there anything else of concern based on the pictures attached?

    -If he is frequently mounting her, should they be separated for her sake?

    -If I am unable to give them the lives they deserve due to living in cold/wet/humid Connecticut, what would my best options be? (I.E. Rescues, sanctuaries, museums, other tortoise forum members that live in desert climates. Also what would the logistics be to get them back out West if that is an option)

    -Does anyone know the legalities of them being in my possession and of possibly relinquishing them over state lines if that is what's in their best interest?

    I have attached lots of pics, but can take more. Any help is greatly appreciated. I just want to do what is best for these poor Tortoises.

    Thank you everyone!



    IMG_6563.JPG IMG_6614.JPG IMG_6627.JPG IMG_6572.JPG IMG_6579.JPG IMG_6583.JPG IMG_6590.JPG IMG_6599.JPG IMG_6604.JPG IMG_6619.JPG IMG_6634.JPG
    Old Mojave, Cat Cat, Bee62 and 2 others like this.
  2. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Your questions:

    1. The damage is done on those shells. Its not going to change at this point. What they need ASAP is proper temps, UV, soaking, separate quarters and the correct foods.
    2. They should not be hibernated this winter, and they do not need "calcium therapy". They need the things listed in number one.
    3. The heads do look a little odd, but they are generally in bad shape.
    4. You are seeing the third eyelid. The nictitating membrane. They all have it, but it shouldn't be sticking.
    5. Yes, there is much to be concerned about.
    6. Yes, they should be separated ASAP.
    7. You'd need to put them in small dog crates and ship them to Cali with Delta of United pet cargo, once you have a recipient that will take them here.
    8. It is illegal for you to possess them outside of their native range. Its probably also illegal to ship them across state lines, but I don't think any reasonable person in wildlife enforcement would charge you while you are trying to undo the past and get them back to where they are legally supposed to be.
    I typed this up for russians, but the care is the same:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

    This might help too:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/

    Please come back and ask more questions if any occur to you. Happy to help.
    Old Mojave, TammyJ and SLawless04 like this.
  3. SLawless04

    SLawless04 New Member

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    Tom,

    Thank you for your response; it's greatly appreciated. I'll say that you confirmed almost everything I suspected, I knew things looked bad from the second I saw them. I'm going to start making phone calls tomorrow to rescue groups in the southwest and possibly to government agencies to find out what the options are. My ultimate goal is to get them back to the desert and in the best hands possible. Until then, they'll be separated in tortoise tables with UVA and UVB. If we happen to get any more warm days I'll give them some fresh air as well.

    I'll update after I hopefully find a good option for them. I will also continue with questions as they come.

    Thank you again for your help. The torts thank you as well!

    Shane
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  4. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Good luck Shane.

    Thanks for taking care of them and I hope everything works out!
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  5. Tldmaft

    Tldmaft New Member

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    SLawless04 likes this.
  6. Tldmaft

    Tldmaft New Member

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    I have a contact here in San Diego that does Tortoise Rescue. He is with the San Diego Tortoise Society and has been very knowledgeable and helpful in rescue.
    If you need the contact please let me know.
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  7. SLawless04

    SLawless04 New Member

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    Thank you. Yes, I will absolutely take that contact info. Any possible leads are appreciated. I really want to see them begin to be rehabilitated out west as soon as possible.
  8. Tldmaft

    Tldmaft New Member

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    If you email me I will be glad to give you Rich's number otherwise I can have him call you.
    He is located here in San Diego.
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  9. SLawless04

    SLawless04 New Member

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    Thank you - My email is [email protected]
  10. TammyJ

    TammyJ Well-Known Member

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    Glad to see positive change on the way for these dear little old guys.
    Thank you, all who are trying to help them!
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  11. SLawless04

    SLawless04 New Member

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    Hi everyone, just wanted to give an update for anyone interested.

    After a long week and many sleepless nights, the tortoises really perked up after being separated, each getting their own MVB, a hide and lots and lots of fresh greens and hay. They also saw a veterinarian who confirmed MBD in both (no surprise) and well as signs of vitamin A deficiency. Fecal test showed off the chart levels of pinworm ova. X-ray also indicated that the female has significant bone loss in her spine at about the midpoint of her shell.

    I also spent the week contacting rescue groups around the country. The fact that they are an endangered species definitely complicated things. Options were limited for this reason, but I did come up with a few options, and I more than weighed them all. Last night I handed them over to a very accomplished and well known turtle/tortoise rescue here in the northeast, where they will continue to be rehabilitated over the Winter. The goal is to make them adoptable next Spring and get them into homes with experienced tortoise keepers.

    Thank you to everyone for your advice and your concern for these wonderful torts. And here to hoping that their bad luck has finally run out!

    Attached Files:

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  12. MissMarg&me

    MissMarg&me Well-Known Member

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    It is very beneficial to read about individuals going to great lengths to secure proper care for creatures that have no ability to help themselves escape dire conditions. Thank you very much for sharing your story.
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  13. Wayne Redfoot Tortoise

    Wayne Redfoot Tortoise Member

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    Hello! I know this is an old post. I'm just trying to connect with tortoises enthusiasts in Connecticut.
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