How do I protect juvenile tortoise against adult tortoise?

izwiz1010

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Hello; my family was given a hatchling desert tortoise from my father’s ex-colleague over two years ago, and we’ve never had any issues with husbandry. Her name is Shelly. During Shelly’s younger years, she had an inside enclosure, but as she got older we’ve shifted to burrows — with success, and some hardships along the way. My yard is fairly large, and over half a year ago, we were given a female adult Desert tortoise (15 years old) by a moving family who had four. The friend had a very large yard, but the tortoises occupied the same burrow. Toto, my newest addition, is quite feisty. She came into the family in a not-so-great condition, as she had an untreated respiratory infection, but that’s been taken care of. Since we were unprepared for brumation season, both the tortoises spent their brumation indoors, and now that they’ve woken up, we’ve faced an issue. Toto is quite terrotorial, and she bobs her head at Shelly. Previously, Shelly has just ignored her — and they didn’t have frequent contact. Toto has never gone further than bobbing. We rebuilt Shelly’s burrow in her old spot underneath a pomegranate tree, but she wasn’t a fan because it was too large — and one day, we saw Toto digging at it and trying to enter! So we decided to give Toto the burrow, and we moved Shelly into a more narrow burrow, right against our brick wall and a boulder, and planted a pomegranate tree so that she’d have enough shade. Since she was previously digging a small crevasse underneath the boulder, she adapted to her new burrow very well. But yesterday we faced another issue: I saw Toto trying to dig into Shelly’s burrow once again, and once I removed her, Shelly sprinted from the burrow so quickly you’d think she was on fire. I’ve never seen a tortoise move that quick. So, obviously that’s a very big problem. As of now, I woke up early to check on them at 5:30 AM (I live in Nevada and the sun is out by then), and I see Toto at Shelly’s burrow once again, and Shelly is walking around the yard. Previously, around this time Toto would be sunbathing and Shelly would be lingering at the front of her burrow, but obviously Toto has disrupted her. I want this to end now because I don’t want Shelly to be put through this stress. What should I do? I have the option of putting one of them on the other end of the yard, but I’m wary of that because it’s the side where the gate is at, and I’d most likely have to relocate Shelly’s burrow. Shelly is still small and she has the tendency to squeeze into very tight spaces, which makes it difficult to locate her (Once we had such a difficulty finding her that we had to recruit the neighborhood kids into the search, and one of them found her completely vertical against a wall and a plank of wood.) What can we do? Rehoming Toto is the absolute last thing we’d consider. We’d like to retire all of our options first. Toto is unable to get into Shelly’s burrow as it is too narrow, but I don’t want Shelly to face the stress. Thanks in advance. Attached is Shelly laying in the entrance of her burrow, and Toto eating some food.
 

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Yvonne G

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They need to each have their own yard. Tortoises are solitary animals and don't want or need other tortoises in their territory. It's very stressful for each of the tortoises to have another tortoise in its territory. My advice is to divide your yard into two and allow each tortoise to have his/her own space.
 

izwiz1010

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Okay, I suspected that would be the solution… I attached images of the portion of my yard which the tortoises frequent, and the location of their burrows. I’d have to put Shelly on the section of the yard from the first image; should I barricade the area and remove the rocks and replace it with dirt? I’d probably place the burrow along the left side, under the shade of the flowers. Do you think this is sufficent space of a tortoise her size? A few minutes ago Toto bothered Shelly while she was eating, and now she has no interest in her food. I’ve already moved her to the side of the yard represented in the first image, but there is no barricade — usually Toto remains on the other side of the yard. If you look closely, you can find Shelly and Toto in the first and second image.
IMG_4421.jpegIMG_4423.jpegIMG_4424.jpegIMG_4425.jpeg
 

wellington

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However you can, they need to be seperated ASAP! If you don't, you will have a sick or dead tortoise on your hands. Tortoises should never be in pairs.
What is the size of the enclosure you are asking about? Too hard to tell if big enough in pictures.
 

izwiz1010

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I was thinking about turning the section of the yard from the first pic into a giant enclosure by encasing it with barricades. I’ll try to get the exact measurements later, but I circled Shelly; hopefully that can be a temporary size gauge of the area.

IMG_4421.jpeg
 

Tom

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Okay, I suspected that would be the solution… I attached images of the portion of my yard which the tortoises frequent, and the location of their burrows. I’d have to put Shelly on the section of the yard from the first image; should I barricade the area and remove the rocks and replace it with dirt? I’d probably place the burrow along the left side, under the shade of the flowers. Do you think this is sufficent space of a tortoise her size? A few minutes ago Toto bothered Shelly while she was eating, and now she has no interest in her food. I’ve already moved her to the side of the yard represented in the first image, but there is no barricade — usually Toto remains on the other side of the yard. If you look closely, you can find Shelly and Toto in the first and second image.
I agree that they need to be separated immediately. Today. Right now. They should never be kept in pairs. DTs and Russians are neck and neck in a race for the worst possible species to do this with.

That gravel is not a suitable tortoise substrate. It is likely to cause impaction. They need to be on dirt or grass.

Also, you said you weren't prepared for brumation so they spent brumation indoors, but now they've woken up. How did they brumate indoors? How did you keep them cold enough? Usually when people bring them indoors, they keep them lit and heated and awake over winter.

Most of the care info offered for DTs is all wrong and will frequently result in a slow death in one of several ways. I know that you said you've had no husbandry issues, but there may be common issues that you are not aware of because of all the incorrect care info out in the world. Here is the correct care info:

 

izwiz1010

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I agree that they need to be separated immediately. Today. Right now. They should never be kept in pairs. DTs and Russians are neck and neck in a race for the worst possible species to do this with.

That gravel is not a suitable tortoise substrate. It is likely to cause impaction. They need to be on dirt or grass.

Also, you said you weren't prepared for brumation so they spent brumation indoors, but now they've woken up. How did they brumate indoors? How did you keep them cold enough? Usually when people bring them indoors, they keep them lit and heated and awake over winter.

Most of the care info offered for DTs is all wrong and will frequently result in a slow death in one of several ways. I know that you said you've had no husbandry issues, but there may be common issues that you are not aware of because of all the incorrect care info out in the world. Here is the correct care info:

We weren’t sure whether we were going to allow Toto to brumate due to her previous RI, but since she recovered, we were advised by our reptile vet to allow her to. They were both kept in separated boxes in the garage where the temperature was consistently under 45 Degrees fahrenheit. After they both woke up, I took them to the vet and it was confirmed that they are both in good health; they’ve been eating well, and are very active.

I will remove the gravel; what sort of dirt should I replace it with? Do you have any suggestions for a specific barricade so that they won’t see each other or detect each other?

What are some of the common issues that I should be aware of?

Is sickness from stress the only risk of having them together, or is there any other possibilities of death?

They’ve been completely separated and they have no access to each other. Shelly has eaten, as well.
 

izwiz1010

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Edit: I read through both of the aforementioned links, thank you for sending them. You mentioned that they need to be on dirt, but on the sheets Orchid Bark, Crypress Mulch and Coco Coir are what you recommended; is that advice intended towards indoor enclosures, or is that the ‘dirt’ that you recommended? They also don’t mention anything about burrows. Is there a guide for those as well?
 

Tom

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We weren’t sure whether we were going to allow Toto to brumate due to her previous RI, but since she recovered, we were advised by our reptile vet to allow her to. They were both kept in separated boxes in the garage where the temperature was consistently under 45 Degrees fahrenheit. After they both woke up, I took them to the vet and it was confirmed that they are both in good health; they’ve been eating well, and are very active.

I will remove the gravel; what sort of dirt should I replace it with? Do you have any suggestions for a specific barricade so that they won’t see each other or detect each other?

What are some of the common issues that I should be aware of?

Is sickness from stress the only risk of having them together, or is there any other possibilities of death?

They’ve been completely separated and they have no access to each other. Shelly has eaten, as well.
Just regular dirt for outdoors. Those substrate mentioned in the care sheets are for indoor housing.

I like to use slump stone block to make tortoise walls, but you can also use plywood with center posts, 2x12s, corrugated roofing material, or other similar things.

Common issues for DTs are dehydration and dog attacks. Also, many people feed too much grocery store foods without adding amendments and not enough "natural" type foods.

I recommend soaking early and often. Every day for babies, tapering down to twice a week for adults in hot dry weather. Burrows help maintain hydration in summer, but soaking helps to prevent dehydration and the related problems that come with it like constipation and bladder stone formation. Dehydration is one of the primary ways that most of the care advice given for this species misses the mark. Just because they can manage to survive in the desert, some of the time, people think they need it dry all the time. This is simply not the case, and our home enclosures are not the wild either. If you provide more water than is needed, and from several sources, they can simply not drink, and they can pee out any excess. If you don't provide enough water or often enough, they can eventually die from one or more dehydration related problems.

Many people incorrectly assume that their loving family dog would never hurt their tortoise. Many times the dog shows no interest in the tortoise for years, right up until the day it does, and then it is too late. Keep dogs and tortoises separate.

Grocery store food can work if amended as explained in the care sheet, but grape leaves, weeds, mulberry leaves, spineless opuntia pads, squash or pumpkin leaves, lavatera leaves and flowers, and so many more are better for them.

Chronic stress from living as a pair can be a killer, and it often is. Ramming and biting can also cause injury or death, and frequently one of them will end up on its back and their brain will cook in the sun. This is not a fun thing to discover...

I like them to dig their own burrows for summer, but man made ones can work too. In fall and spring, I prefer to make them use my shelters because I can control the night temps and give them a place to warm up and bask if the weather isn't cooperating before or after brumation.
 

TammyJ

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Hello and welcome to you and your tortoises! I hope you are able to follow through with all the great advice you have been given already. Luckily you have space to give each tortoise his own territory. I would provide lots of shade and water.
 

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