Mojave Desert Tortoise advice.

Tom

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I didn't see anything about him eating. I interpreted the story that he has just come out of brumation and they thought the night temperature wss too cold for him.
Re-reading, I see he didn't mention that specifically, but that is what I inferred from the warm weather we've been having for that last couple of weeks. We got up to almost 90. I woke up my Chersina from hibernation about two weeks ago and he's been eating like crazy and very active.
 

Tom

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Does that mean that I should definitely bring him inside?
I would. If you allow him to get cold again with food in the gut, and it stays too cold for too long, that food will rot and it could kill him.

Even here on this forum, we have different opinions on the matter. We've all had different experiences over all the years, and we've formed our own preferences based on those experiences. I tend to use more artificial means to more precisely control things in, out, and during hibernation. I prefer this to leaving them outside, and hoping for the best. Many people do the outside thing, and they are careful and thoughtful about it, and their tortoises get through it, but I've seen so many people lose their tortoises that way. When I watch and control the temps, nothing bad ever happens.

@Markw84 has a lot of experience hibernating North American turtles and tortoises. I'd love to hear his take on this one.
 

daveyjones1972

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Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions. We opted to bring him in, and will continue to do so every night until it warms up a little more outside.
 

TammyJ

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All the best getting him settled again. Some pictures when you can, would be nice!
 

daveyjones1972

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First, I wanted to thank everyone again for all of their help with our tortoise questions. I’m sorry if a lack of information in my original post caused any confusion. I thought the cold night was the night I’d posted, not the next, and I was rushing to get the question out there in hopes of a quick response.

Now that he’s inside from about 4:30 PM through morning, I was wondering if anyone might have suggestions about the best way to deal with any pee and/or poo. He pee’d a little last night (clear liquid), and there was some dry, desiccated looking poo, but not much. Ive been using Timothy hay in a large overturned plastic container for his “bed,” but I’m afraid of the hay getting wet since he’s a desert species. We were thinking a doggie pee pad on the floor might work, but I was hoping maybe ya’ll might have a better suggestion.

Also, I wanted to add that we had a healthy physical yesterday, and it seems that other than the need for a bath, he’s in good health. So that’s a relief.

Thanks again!

Davey Jones
 

TammyJ

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I don't think that anyone was thinking that you would be having him inside and having "the run" of your house without being contained in a large enclosure within the house. He would need to be in a large plastic box of some kind in an appropriate temperature room in your house, and not free roaming. Free roaming tortoises are at risk from many possible sources of danger and injury.
 

daveyjones1972

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I don't think that anyone was thinking that you would be having him inside and having "the run" of your house without being contained in a large enclosure within the house. He would need to be in a large plastic box of some kind in an appropriate temperature room in your house, and not free roaming. Free roaming tortoises are at risk from many possible sources of danger and injury.

He’s in the laundry room and blocked inside a roughly 3x3 foot area where he can’t cause too much trouble. So far, so good. Just wanted to try and keep pee off the floor if possible.
 

Tom

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First, I wanted to thank everyone again for all of their help with our tortoise questions. I’m sorry if a lack of information in my original post caused any confusion. I thought the cold night was the night I’d posted, not the next, and I was rushing to get the question out there in hopes of a quick response.

Now that he’s inside from about 4:30 PM through morning, I was wondering if anyone might have suggestions about the best way to deal with any pee and/or poo. He pee’d a little last night (clear liquid), and there was some dry, desiccated looking poo, but not much. Ive been using Timothy hay in a large overturned plastic container for his “bed,” but I’m afraid of the hay getting wet since he’s a desert species. We were thinking a doggie pee pad on the floor might work, but I was hoping maybe ya’ll might have a better suggestion.

Also, I wanted to add that we had a healthy physical yesterday, and it seems that other than the need for a bath, he’s in good health. So that’s a relief.

Thanks again!

Davey Jones
If he's going to be inside all night and on cold rainy days, he's going to need a large enclosure. At least 4x8', but bigger would be better. He'll need a heat lamp to warm up on the days when he can't go outside due to temps and weather.

Desert tortoises seek out humid areas in the wild. Our notions about keeping them dry in captivity literally kill them. They get dehydrated and form stones because we keep them un-naturally dry. Damp substrate is best. I prefer orchid bark and I buy it in bulk at local garden centers. I also like to soak adults at least once or twice a week to ensure good hydration and prevent the stone formation that kills so many of them.

If you don't want to do this, then make an outdoor night box for him to stay in. You can heat it and even put in a heat lamp to control the temperature on cold cloudy days. I use this sort of set up to lead them into and out of hibernation, and then once they are up, I make the needed adjustments to keep them up. They don't need constant warm temps like a tropical species, but I like to keep night temps above 60 in spring and fall, and after I wake them from hibernation, I use a heat lamp in the box to give them a warming area to make it through the tail end of winter and into some of those cooler spring days. In summer, the whole box is unplugged.

Here is a divided box I made for Chersina, which have similar temperature requirements:
IMG 7113

IMG 7256

IMG 7257


For a single tortoise you wouldn't need the divider, and you'd only need one door. The water tubs offer some moderate humidity, which simulates the inside of their desert burrows.
 

daveyjones1972

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That’s a lovely setup! I noticed you’re in Southern California. Not sure how far South you are, but I’m pretty close to Pasadena. The daytime temperatures here have been fairly decent as of late, and it seems like with any luck we’ll be out of the woods for the evening temperatures in a couple of weeks. I’m definitely going to want to do something similar to your nighttime habitat, but not sure if I’ll be able to get to a project like that for at least a couple of weeks, so I’m still going to need a temporary solution. In the meantime, do you think the little space in the laundry room is a terrible idea as a temporary solution? Would I be better putting him in a big Rubbermaid tub for the night as opposed to the little blocked in space I created for him. If it’s not raining I can leave him outside in his dog house and get a pig blanket, or one of those Zoo Med Habitat Heaters that are like 18” x 18”, but that being said there’s still a few rainy days predicated for next week. Currently on nice days, he’s outdoors from about 8:30 AM when the sun hits the back patio, until around 5:00 PM. By that time he’s usually crashed out.

As far as the night box, what type of wood do you suggest? Also, what sort of humidity levels would you recommend for night and day? Lastly, I was wondering if you run the little heater in back on a thermostat with a temp probe, or does it have a built in thermostat.

Once again, thanks so much for your help!

Davey Jones
 

Tom

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That’s a lovely setup! I noticed you’re in Southern California. Not sure how far South you are, but I’m pretty close to Pasadena. The daytime temperatures here have been fairly decent as of late, and it seems like with any luck we’ll be out of the woods for the evening temperatures in a couple of weeks. I’m definitely going to want to do something similar to your nighttime habitat, but not sure if I’ll be able to get to a project like that for at least a couple of weeks, so I’m still going to need a temporary solution. In the meantime, do you think the little space in the laundry room is a terrible idea as a temporary solution? Would I be better putting him in a big Rubbermaid tub for the night as opposed to the little blocked in space I created for him. If it’s not raining I can leave him outside in his dog house and get a pig blanket, or one of those Zoo Med Habitat Heaters that are like 18” x 18”, but that being said there’s still a few rainy days predicated for next week. Currently on nice days, he’s outdoors from about 8:30 AM when the sun hits the back patio, until around 5:00 PM. By that time he’s usually crashed out.

As far as the night box, what type of wood do you suggest? Also, what sort of humidity levels would you recommend for night and day? Lastly, I was wondering if you run the little heater in back on a thermostat with a temp probe, or does it have a built in thermostat.

Once again, thanks so much for your help!

Davey Jones
I'm in Santa Clarita, so not far from you. Your climate is just a little milder, but very similar.

On the floor in your laundry room is better than 40 degrees and rainy outside, but it is still not suitable. It is too cold on the floor for daytime and too many hazards. Its also too small of a space. He needs to be able to warm up every day, right now, because he's got food in him. A small tub won't do it either. I don't like the ZooMed heaters because they don't have the built in safeties that the Kane mats have. Get a Kane mat from Tyler and Sarah at Tortoisesupply.com.

For the night box, I use 11/32 plywood from Home Depot. Use 1.5 inch rigid foam in the walls for insulation and seal it well with GE silicone I. I use 2x2 for framing the lid and 2x3 or 2x4 for framing the rest. I'll put some links showing more about the construction at the end of this post.

The heat lamp is on a timer, and I only use it on cold days at certain times of the year. I manage the temps all year long depending on the weather and what I'm trying to do with him.

The mini radiant heater is on a thermostat. The built in thermostats will allow 15-20 degree temperature swings, so you have to use a reptile thermostat on it. You can see the probe sticking out of the box that contains all the electrical stuff. Because this is a temperate species, I just use the heater to keep the night box around 60-ish during the times when we still have cold nights in spring or fall, and I don't want him to try to hibernate. He warms up during the day with either sunshine, or his heat lamp if its going to be cold and cloudy, like this weekend. When we have spells in the high 70s or 80s, like yesterday and today, I unscrew the bulb and he comes out to warm up in the sun.

This is for bigger boxes, but you'll get the idea for how they are made:
 

daveyjones1972

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Thanks for the information. I looked at the plans and they don’t look too daunting. The pig blanket sounds like a decent stop gap for cold nights—at least when it’s not raining. Would you happen to know if the Kane blankets are rigid or have some give? The word blanket would tend to make me think they aren’t solid, but they look quite pretty solid. The reason I ask is that the entrance to the outdoor enclosure isn’t as wide as the 18” blanket.

Thanks again for everything!

-Davey Jones
 

Tom

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Thanks for the information. I looked at the plans and they don’t look too daunting. The pig blanket sounds like a decent stop gap for cold nights—at least when it’s not raining. Would you happen to know if the Kane blankets are rigid or have some give? The word blanket would tend to make me think they aren’t solid, but they look quite pretty solid. The reason I ask is that the entrance to the outdoor enclosure isn’t as wide as the 18” blanket.

Thanks again for everything!

-Davey Jones
They are rigid. You might be able to turn it a bit and get it inside diagonally. If not, you'd have to pop the top off. Or a wall...
 

daveyjones1972

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I have a sully :). Agreed with the weather!
If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your experience been during the summer? Does your tortoise have an underground burrow, or do they live in an enclosure/house of some sort. I’m a bit worried about the heat once summer rolls around.
 

Tom

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If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your experience been during the summer? Does your tortoise have an underground burrow, or do they live in an enclosure/house of some sort. I’m a bit worried about the heat once summer rolls around.
In your area, your tortoise will be fine as long as it has some shade from bushes and trees. On really really hot summer days, you can run the sprinklers for a few minutes mid day, make a mud wallow, or run misters. I allow mine to burrow in the summer, but then you have to get them up and out of the burrow in fall and block the entrance. With some creative shovel work, you can usually get them to start burrowing where you want them to, instead of wherever they choose which is almost always a bad spot.
 
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