HOW FAR DO THEY BURROW AND FOR HOW LONG?

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colinsmum

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Hi All - I put up a thread last week as we lost our beloved Hermanns, Phyllis. Well after 2 very long days we found her, covered in earth and looking a bit bemused.

We checked her part of the garden to ensure that it was once again secure, and put her and her brother, Colin, back into that part. However, we have not seen her for 4 days now. Colin went 'missing' for 2 days and my OH found him burrowed right down about 1 1/2 feet.

I am convinced that she hasn't escaped again, but that she has burrowed right down. She is only 2 years old and is about 1/4 the size of Colin, so my question is how deep down can they burrow and how long can they stay there for? We are both really worried that one this occasion she really has gone!
 

Seiryu

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colinsmum said:
Hi All - I put up a thread last week as we lost our beloved Hermanns, Phyllis. Well after 2 very long days we found her, covered in earth and looking a bit bemused.

We checked her part of the garden to ensure that it was once again secure, and put her and her brother, Colin, back into that part. However, we have not seen her for 4 days now. Colin went 'missing' for 2 days and my OH found him burrowed right down about 1 1/2 feet.

I am convinced that she hasn't escaped again, but that she has burrowed right down. She is only 2 years old and is about 1/4 the size of Colin, so my question is how deep down can they burrow and how long can they stay there for? We are both really worried that one this occasion she really has gone!

I am not sure how far they burrow, but probably a good 5-6" is possible (maybe more).

Since you're having trouble with digging, you'll probably want to buy some chicken wire from home depot and line the entire area with it.

As in, dig up the area you want the tortoises to roam, lay down the chicken wire, and put the soil/dirt back on top (whatever deepness you want). Once they hit the wire they can't escape. Something else though is if you want their substrate to be, let's say 6". Then you'll also need to line around the sides too.
 

GBtortoises

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As far as I know Hermann's tortoises don't burrow. Not in solid ground, maybe under debris or leaf litter. They may dig a shallow "pallet" or depression next to a shaded bush or shelter to rest in during very hot weather. But they don't burrow like a Sulcata, Gopher or Russian tortoise. Young Hermann's will often bury themselves just below ground level for protection and to escape heat. If they are outdoors when the temperatures drop they will dig deeper into the soil if adequate shelter is not available. Even under those circumstances I doubt that they would burrow a foot and half deep. I have adults Hermann's that hibernate outdoors under very severe winter weather conditions and even they only go about 3" deep under the soil which is covered by roofed shelter. But in over 25 years of keeping several hundred different Hermann's tortoises I have never, ever seen one show any inclination to actually burrow. Are you sure what you have are Hermann's tortoises?
 

tortoisenerd

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You may want to provide something to hide under such as a plant, flower pot, etc, to minimize burrowing. Are you sure the temperatures are appropriate for the tort to be outside? Do the torts live outside full time? Is this a very large area we are talking about, or could you gently dig it up? If it is warm enough for the tort to be outside, I doubt it would stay buried for more than a few days without wanting food. I'd wait out there in the morning with some treats and see if the tort comes up to sun itself. Agreed you need to do something to prevent this.
 

Stephanie Logan

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Dang it, Phyllis! Stay upstairs where your people can keep an eye on you!

They are such stinkers with their independent personalities. :rolleyes:
 

colinsmum

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Hi - Many thanks for all your replies. Good news is that Phyllis is back. After 4 days of going missing the OH went outside and there she was sitting underneath the Chosia bush on top of the soil. She should have been named Houdini as she is always climbing and escaping.

Yes they are Hermmans tortoises as I have taken to a vet who specialises in tortoises and he confirmed this. My 2 are always digging themselves down deep. Initially Colin only went down a couple of inches but it was him that was elbow deep when OH found him last week!!!

The bit of garden they have got is covered in plants and shrubs and there is alot of space for them to hide out of the sun without having to burrow. I am not sure whether it is too cold to leave them outside yet, but in the daytime when it has been warm and sunny we put them out and bring them in again at night, but that is the problem - we 'loose' them.

The part of the garden they have is about 4 foot deep at the back sloping down to around 3 foot. It has rock hard soil around the perameter alongside the fencing which we think is too hard for them to bury in, but the problem we have is the centre part is quite soft and is covered in bark - that is where they tend to burrow. I quite like the idea of digging out as much as we can and then putting in chicken wire and covering back in, but would be concerned that they get stuck in it and we cannot get them back out - what do you think.

At the moment we are just letting them walk free around the grass and decking area, where there are a few things for them to hide under as well as their little house. I know this isn't ideal and the garden is more like their natural surroundings, but at the moment I feel it is the safest option. If I were clever enough to put up photos, I would post some so you could see what I mean.

I also feel that when they go in their garden, they just seem to burrow and we don't bond with them like we do when they are above ground - but I know that they are happier there and it is a case of what is good for us is not so good for them.

Sorry for prattling on, but want just what is best for Colin and Phyllis. Many thanks once again for your help and advice.
 

helensky

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colinsmum - I have two hermann's the same age and they have played this trick on me a few times! Recently, Mini went under for a whole winter ( I put him out the last suuny day in November - apparently not sunny enough!) and reappeared 4 months later! I do get the odd day where they decide to burrow, and because I worry I will hurt them if I did them up I just leave them to it! Their area is secure on two sides by a garage and coal scuttle, and the other sides with a 15cm deep fence, on the other side of which is a paving stone path. I am sure they cannot get out of enclosure, so I don't really worry if they're gone for a few days because they always turn up looking pleased with themselves sooner or later (usually the next day, or a few days later), you just need to keep an eye out!
 

tortoisenerd

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See this for posting photos: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-1408.html

Please take the temperature in your yard--you really should have an outdoor thermometer reading with a wireless transmitter so when you are sitting in your house you know the temps outside. I'd only want my tort outside if it was well into the 70s, but they really need to warm up more than that too, as they need to get into the 80s and 90s to digest food. They will burrow more when overly cold or warm, or when they don't have spots to hide. Most of the time its just because they like it--we're just trying to figure out what is going on and make sure they are safe.
 

colinsmum

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tortoisenerd said:
See this for posting photos: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-1408.html

Please take the temperature in your yard--you really should have an outdoor thermometer reading with a wireless transmitter so when you are sitting in your house you know the temps outside. I'd only want my tort outside if it was well into the 70s, but they really need to warm up more than that too, as they need to get into the 80s and 90s to digest food. They will burrow more when overly cold or warm, or when they don't have spots to hide. Most of the time its just because they like it--we're just trying to figure out what is going on and make sure they are safe.

This week we have just let them roam around the grass/decking area, but they just seem to happy sleeping in their little house. Does this mean that it is too cold for them still. We have had temperatures around 22/25 degrees (sorry not sure what that is in Fahrenheit) and they have then dropped to around 15 degrees in the night. I notice that they are not eating much and so am wondering if that is because it is not warm enough? Many thanks for your help.

helensky said:
colinsmum - I have two hermann's the same age and they have played this trick on me a few times! Recently, Mini went under for a whole winter ( I put him out the last suuny day in November - apparently not sunny enough!) and reappeared 4 months later! I do get the odd day where they decide to burrow, and because I worry I will hurt them if I did them up I just leave them to it! Their area is secure on two sides by a garage and coal scuttle, and the other sides with a 15cm deep fence, on the other side of which is a paving stone path. I am sure they cannot get out of enclosure, so I don't really worry if they're gone for a few days because they always turn up looking pleased with themselves sooner or later (usually the next day, or a few days later), you just need to keep an eye out!

Thanks for setting my mind at rest! I am not so worried about them escaping now, as I am sure they can't get out, but I just don't want them to get too cold. Colin (the 7 year old) seems quite happy to stay indoors in the tank, but Phyllis (2 year old) seems to go demented and spends all her time trying to get out, so I feel that she is happier in the garden! Not sure what to do for the best as feel that their natural environment is the best for them, but really worried that it's not?
 

Tom

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If its SUNNY and 21-25 they should be able to get plenty warm by basking. If they aren't comfortable enough to come out and bask, or if the area is too shady, or if its cloudy, then they probably are a bit too cool. Can you post a pic of the area?

If you are having appetite troubles, I wouldn't let them drop down to 15 at night either. I'd keep them above 21.
 

colinsmum

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Tom said:
If its SUNNY and 21-25 they should be able to get plenty warm by basking. If they aren't comfortable enough to come out and bask, or if the area is too shady, or if its cloudy, then they probably are a bit too cool. Can you post a pic of the area?

If you are having appetite troubles, I wouldn't let them drop down to 15 at night either. I'd keep them above 21.



Even when it is sunny and very warm, they just seem to spend a majority of their time in their house. We take them out, but 5 minutes later they are back in!! I have started bringing them back in again at night as the last couple of days it has got cooler.

I will try and post some pics, but not very computer literate so make take a while:D
 

tortoisenerd

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I think with what you are describing they are not warm enough. They need to get their tummies up to 29 C or 85 F to want to eat. I would bring them in at night, and also only have them out in the warmest part of the day. That way when they are inside, they can be warmer (assuming you have an enclosure with a bulb that can provide heat to them, up to 35 C or 95 F is good, as long as there are areas in the enclosure that are cooler as well, between 21 and 35 C is a good range indoors). With the temperatures, I am not at all surprised they are burrowing. As long as you don't notice signs of stress, alternating between indoors and outdoors to keep them warm enough may be appropriate. What does Phyllis do that makes you think she is happier outdoors? This confuses me as you also say they are in the house when outdoors, so that doesn't seem like Phyllis is happy outdoors if she is hiding in the house all the time. How long have you had the current indoor and outdoor enclosures for them (I am curious if they might still be getting used to either, and thus the outdoor hiding)? For a tortoise, even 25 C or 77 F is not sunny and warm. Yes, they can get used to living in the cooler temps, but the behavior you are describing to me of the hiding and not eating isn't good and doesn't sound like they have adjusted. If they will be spending more time indoors, do you want to share some photos of the tank with us so we can see if any improvements can be made to make them happier?
 
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