My Tortoise has passed away today

murtle46

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I’ve always gone to the Tortoiseforum to look for anything i needed help with. Whether it was enclosure to tortoise diet to tortoise behaviors. I never thought my first post here was going to be about the passing of my red foot. I figured I should put this here so that others can read and maybe help me come to an understanding as to why he passed away and if it was something I need to do as an owner or if my red foot passed away for something not in my control.

For context, my red foot tortoise was 7 years old and he’s been always the baby of the group/family. He’s not my first tortoise. Back in the early 2000s I had a female Ornate Box Turtle. She was sold to me from a reptile store and I had her until 2012. It was then where Florida was hit with a tropical storm (flooded certain parts of the city) and my fence went down. Back then I was young and my father didn’t want the tortoise inside unless it was for emergencies only (meaning it was too cold for her). So the night before we lost her, I said my good night to her and then the next morning she wasn’t there in my backyard. I searched around thinking maybe she went underground. But then i noticed my fence that connects to my neighbors yard fell down. And then that’s where I saw the fence of my neighbor that connects to the street also fell down. So, after checking the backyard and the neighbors, we came to the conclusion that she escaped and disappeared. I was stricken with grief that my parents decided to do something about it. And later that year, we went and got a tortoise. By this time I moved to a different part of the city and decided that I would raise it differently. I got my first tortoise (Red Foot Male) and I had him in an indoor enclosure (he looked about 3yrs old when i bought him). Had heat/uv lamp, basking area, nice substrate and had access to food/water. I felt confident enough where I decided to get another tortoise. In 2013 I got my second tortoise (Red Foot Male) and they were both around the same age (again he looked about 3yrs old when i bought him). By this point we expanded the enclosure. But we continued with the same life style that the first tortoise had. They became close and everything was good for a while. Once they got older, we moved them to an outdoor enclosure. I believe it was in 2016 when we fully moved them into the outdoor enclosure. We took baby steps at first and then they became comfortable with their new tiny house that my father built. They had a nice little space in the yard. And it was good. Then in 2017, I decided to get another tortoise. But i decided to get a baby. Same deal, Red Foot. Had them inside for a while before introducing him to the older tortoises. I’ve read before that I need to take small steps (plus i was a bit nervous that they would step on the little dude) when introducing a smaller tortoise to an adult one. So for a few months I would have them eat together or walk around each other in the yard. After that, I felt comfortable enough to have him live outside with the others. And for years it was like that. The enclosure was remodeled so that they had plenty of space to walk around, and their house was also renovated to accommodate all 3 of them. They all were close. Didn’t have much problems at all.

Unfortunately, as the title suggests, my youngest tortoise has passed away. I’ve been working 2 jobs recently and I had my father take care of my tortoises for me. At least until the summer ends and then i’ll go back to school and only have part time. This is what he told me leading up to my youngest passing. Apparently on June 16, he saw my youngest tortoise have his penis out (this has happened before and when i read about it, i’ve read it was normal but that if the penis becomes prolapsed then you need to soak it and hopefully it’ll make it go back inside the body. Most of the time, whenever I see my tortoises do that, they will put it right back inside. Even when i try to soak them when I think it’s been out for a bit too long, they’ll retract it). And he thought nothing of it. But he noticed that Pancho wasn’t eating that much and when he went to fetch him for his afternoon snack, he was in the corner of the enclosure. Away from the other 2 tortoises. Again, it’s a bit strange but they sometimes do that. The other ones will sometimes sleep outside and then go back inside (they have shade from the bamboo that grows behind the enclosure). So my father puts him back inside the house and left him there. Then comes today, June 17, and he says that when he went to feed them, he saw Pancho outside with his penis still out (dried up) and he was smelling. And when he tried to move him, flies started flying around. And so my tortoise passed away. After he told me that, I concluded that he may have passed away to a combination of a prolapsed penis and heat stroke. I’m trying to still make sense of it. And yes the house does have 2 little holes to have circulation and when it’s cold we close it or we just bring them inside. The older tortoises have never tried biting nor harming the youngest tortoise. They are really passive with Pancho. They have 2 water bowls in their enclosure and their diet is a combination of different fruits (we try to mix it up from time to time), lettuce, collard greens, and the occasional earth worms. They have plenty of shade from the bamboos covering half of the enclosure. And i don’t really worry about the humidity since i live in florida. So im just trying to understand if it was something I did wrong or if it was something out of my control. I wish I could’ve done something. Noticed anything. Even said my last goodbye.

Right now, Pancho is buried in my yard. The other two tortoises haven’t eaten much today and they’re just inside their house. I don’t know if they’ll notice Pancho missing but i hope they’re okay. I’ve decided that I’m going to take the other 2 to a vet so that if there’s some sort of virus/bacteria going around, then I can prevent it.

Any thoughts or ideas will be appreciated. Right now, I’m just hoping that Pancho is resting peacefully now.

Here’s his grave.
 

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Alex and the Redfoot

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Hello!
First of all, I sincerely sorry about your loss of little Pancho. It always hard to take. And thank you for sharing this story.

I see no fatal flaws in your care (besides only one, but more on that later). However, regular prolapses can be a sign of impacted tortoise and could be a reason of death (e.g. from eating pebbles, dehydration or something alike).

Now, about the issue with care. You've got one of the worst cases of housing a group of tortoises: three males in one pen with the one younger than others. While redfooteds are more tolerant to presence of other tortoises around they are still solitary and territorial animals. They have no concept of caring for and protecting younger tortoises (no food and shelter sharing) - everyone is on its own and the weakest has to fight, leave or lose. With the latter more likely to happen. All three were living in stress of co-habitation and ready to fight at any moment. Even if there are no open aggression signs the tension is still present.

At this point, the best thing you can do for your remaining redfoots is to place a divider in pen and keep them separate. Two males have no options but to fight for territory.
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

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Hello!
First of all, I sincerely sorry about your loss of little Pancho. It always hard to take. And thank you for sharing this story.

I see no fatal flaws in your care (besides only one, but more on that later). However, regular prolapses can be a sign of impacted tortoise and could be a reason of death (e.g. from eating pebbles, dehydration or something alike).

Now, about the issue with care. You've got one of the worst cases of housing a group of tortoises: three males in one pen with the one younger than others. While redfooteds are more tolerant to presence of other tortoises around they are still solitary and territorial animals. They have no concept of caring for and protecting younger tortoises (no food and shelter sharing) - everyone is on its own and the weakest has to fight, leave or lose. With the latter more likely to happen. All three were living in stress of co-habitation and ready to fight at any moment. Even if there are no open aggression signs the tension is still present.

At this point, the best thing you can do for your remaining redfoots is to place a divider in pen and keep them separate. Two males have no options but to fight for territory.
I definitely agree with Alex here that your remaining two really need separating, they don’t live well in pairs, for groups you need a crazy amount of space and the right female to male ratio.

So sorry for your loss😞
 

murtle46

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FL
Hello!
First of all, I sincerely sorry about your loss of little Pancho. It always hard to take. And thank you for sharing this story.

I see no fatal flaws in your care (besides only one, but more on that later). However, regular prolapses can be a sign of impacted tortoise and could be a reason of death (e.g. from eating pebbles, dehydration or something alike).

Now, about the issue with care. You've got one of the worst cases of housing a group of tortoises: three males in one pen with the one younger than others. While redfooteds are more tolerant to presence of other tortoises around they are still solitary and territorial animals. They have no concept of caring for and protecting younger tortoises (no food and shelter sharing) - everyone is on its own and the weakest has to fight, leave or lose. With the latter more likely to happen. All three were living in stress of co-habitation and ready to fight at any moment. Even if there are no open aggression signs the tension is still present.

At this point, the best thing you can do for your remaining redfoots is to place a divider in pen and keep them separate. Two males have no options but to fight for territory.
Hey and thanks.

As for the enclosure situation, I’ve always recognized this as a flaw. I’ve known that having males grouped together can be difficult. And normally when it’s winter I’ll group them up together since they’re more worried about the cold. But during the summer, I understand that they need to be kept apart. I’ve even tried separating all three by rearranging the enclosure (and even amplifying it so each a decent amount of space) but I’ve quickly noticed that all three were not eating regularly. And they would just walk around and around. A stress behavior. It just seemed that they were always looking for someone. So I just always had them together.

When it was feeding time I always made sure to cut and serve equal portions for everyone. And when the others would finish first and try to eat the others plate, I would just take them out of the enclosure so that they can roam and leave the other to eat. And when it was sleeping time, each have their own corners. Although sometimes I’ll find one sleeping with the other.

And I’ve read about the female to male ratio thing but I never wanted to get another tortoise. I felt good with just having the three. I was thinking of getting another one in the next year but right now I don’t feel comfortable with the thought.

I’ve always tried to make the enclosure/house always big and spacious so that no one’s pushed together. They have their own corners (they have little dividers). My father and I were planning on expanding even more their enclosure this summer. Essentially they were gonna have almost half of the yard (we grow different types of plants like avocado, lemon, orange) and they would have extra space to walk and have more hiding spots. We’re still gonna do it but it’ll just be for the 2 of them instead.

I’ll try to reenact the separation of the two. Slowly make it so that each of them have their own enclosure. I’ve always liked the idea of having my tortoises be free roaming of the entire yard. But i’ve been nervous ever since the first turtle and florida can get really rainy/stormy. But maybe i’ll try that instead.

I’m about to clock in so I won’t be able to add more but hopefully that’ll answer some questions as to what the situation is for them. I’ll probably add more.
 

murtle46

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I definitely agree with Alex here that your remaining two really need separating, they don’t live well in pairs, for groups you need a crazy amount of space and the right female to male ratio.

So sorry for your loss😞
Yeah I understand and thanks.

I’ve made another post regarding the situation of the enclosure. Maybe that’ll give and idea as to what the situation was beforehand. I’ll probably add more but I’m about to clock in.

But thanks again.
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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The stress and no eating after separation could be just stress from their enclosure change. Tortoises don't like any visual change in their territory, pacing and refusing food are common symptoms after relocation for example. I would try separating them again and waiting for the initial stress from the change to wear off.

Here is more about the stress caused by change in environment: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/turtles-and-tortoises-dont-like-change.179518/

And here is more about tortoises in pairs, everything might seem good before a catastrophe. Especially since the group dynamic has changed, their behaviour towards each other might worsen: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/w...together-a-lesson-learned-the-hard-way.94114/
 

wellington

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Sorry for your loss
You are reading into your tortoises the wrong message. Males really should not be housed together. Now you had two adult males with a much smaller male. The stress and bullying, fighting, probably did him in.
Always being together, getting along as you say, etc, is bullying.
Get the two you have seperated ASAP or one or both of them will likely pass to.
Also never put a baby or younger ones with adults until they are much closer to the adults size.
Never more than one male with several females for groups.
Never pairs.
 

murtle46

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The stress and no eating after separation could be just stress from their enclosure change. Tortoises don't like any visual change in their territory, pacing and refusing food are common symptoms after relocation for example. I would try separating them again and waiting for the initial stress from the change to wear off.

Here is more about the stress caused by change in environment: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/turtles-and-tortoises-dont-like-change.179518/

And here is more about tortoises in pairs, everything might seem good before a catastrophe. Especially since the group dynamic has changed, their behaviour towards each other might worsen: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/w...together-a-lesson-learned-the-hard-way.94114/
Hey and thanks for the tips.

I know that stress can be caused my environmental change. Such as changing habitat. When i did separate them that one time, it was for almost half a year and during that time they weren’t eating regularly like before. And because of that, i felt like the stress of separating them was during more harm at that time. So i put them together again. And then they pop back up.

I read another comment that I might reading the wrong clues and misinterpreting them. Maybe i am but I just felt like at that time, it was just doing them more harm than good.

I’ll still read the links and separate them once again. I’ll be keeping an eye on them more often. Especially now. I don’t want to lose another one.
 

murtle46

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Sorry for your loss
You are reading into your tortoises the wrong message. Males really should not be housed together. Now you had two adult males with a much smaller male. The stress and bullying, fighting, probably did him in.
Always being together, getting along as you say, etc, is bullying.
Get the two you have seperated ASAP or one or both of them will likely pass to.
Also never put a baby or younger ones with adults until they are much closer to the adults size.
Never more than one male with several females for groups.
Never pairs.
Hey and thanks.

I understand. I’m gonna separate them once again. I made a reply (the one probably above your comment) about the situation when I separated them.

But i’ll still do it again. I don’t know if you read my first reply i did in the thread, but my father and I were planning on expanding their enclosure to be half the size of our backyard. Should I still have them together or just separate them and cut the extra space in half?
 

Ink

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Hey and thanks.

I understand. I’m gonna separate them once again. I made a reply (the one probably above your comment) about the situation when I separated them.

But i’ll still do it again. I don’t know if you read my first reply i did in the thread, but my father and I were planning on expanding their enclosure to be half the size of our backyard. Should I still have them together or just separate them and cut the extra space in half?
Separate them.
 

wellington

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Hey and thanks.

I understand. I’m gonna separate them once again. I made a reply (the one probably above your comment) about the situation when I separated them.

But i’ll still do it again. I don’t know if you read my first reply i did in the thread, but my father and I were planning on expanding their enclosure to be half the size of our backyard. Should I still have them together or just separate them and cut the extra space in half?
Never house them together period! Unless you had acres with lots of trees etc, could you try having them together. Even then you'd have to be sure they went their separate ways.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Hey and thanks.

As for the enclosure situation, I’ve always recognized this as a flaw. I’ve known that having males grouped together can be difficult. And normally when it’s winter I’ll group them up together since they’re more worried about the cold. But during the summer, I understand that they need to be kept apart. I’ve even tried separating all three by rearranging the enclosure (and even amplifying it so each a decent amount of space) but I’ve quickly noticed that all three were not eating regularly. And they would just walk around and around. A stress behavior. It just seemed that they were always looking for someone. So I just always had them together.

When it was feeding time I always made sure to cut and serve equal portions for everyone. And when the others would finish first and try to eat the others plate, I would just take them out of the enclosure so that they can roam and leave the other to eat. And when it was sleeping time, each have their own corners. Although sometimes I’ll find one sleeping with the other.

And I’ve read about the female to male ratio thing but I never wanted to get another tortoise. I felt good with just having the three. I was thinking of getting another one in the next year but right now I don’t feel comfortable with the thought.

I’ve always tried to make the enclosure/house always big and spacious so that no one’s pushed together. They have their own corners (they have little dividers). My father and I were planning on expanding even more their enclosure this summer. Essentially they were gonna have almost half of the yard (we grow different types of plants like avocado, lemon, orange) and they would have extra space to walk and have more hiding spots. We’re still gonna do it but it’ll just be for the 2 of them instead.

I’ll try to reenact the separation of the two. Slowly make it so that each of them have their own enclosure. I’ve always liked the idea of having my tortoises be free roaming of the entire yard. But i’ve been nervous ever since the first turtle and florida can get really rainy/stormy. But maybe i’ll try that instead.

I’m about to clock in so I won’t be able to add more but hopefully that’ll answer some questions as to what the situation is for them. I’ll probably add more.
Thank you for all the details. No doubt you did your best to mitigate the risks of your tortoises living together. While stress could be the one of the contributing factors, I don't think it can cause prolapse and tortoise death (yet, without a necropsy we will never know the cause). And I'm pretty sure it was not any obvious fault in care.

When you separated them, the reason for constant pacing was probably the smell of other tortoises nearby and they were searching for the rivals. If I remember, there should be around 5 feet distance and sight barriers between the enclosures. Reduced appetite is something which can occur after separating tortoises living together for a long time, yet it should back to normal in a while. Purely speculating here, but "piggy eating" could be a survival strategy - eat more, grow faster, become the territory leader. If they were gaining weight while eating less - it was not a problem.

I wish you luck with your redfoots and long, happy and healthy life for them. Please, come back with any concerns and questions. And of course, updates (and photos of your guys).
 

murtle46

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Thank you for all the details. No doubt you did your best to mitigate the risks of your tortoises living together. While stress could be the one of the contributing factors, I don't think it can cause prolapse and tortoise death (yet, without a necropsy we will never know the cause). And I'm pretty sure it was not any obvious fault in care.

When you separated them, the reason for constant pacing was probably the smell of other tortoises nearby and they were searching for the rivals. If I remember, there should be around 5 feet distance and sight barriers between the enclosures. Reduced appetite is something which can occur after separating tortoises living together for a long time, yet it should back to normal in a while. Purely speculating here, but "piggy eating" could be a survival strategy - eat more, grow faster, become the territory leader. If they were gaining weight while eating less - it was not a problem.

I wish you luck with your redfoots and long, happy and healthy life for them. Please, come back with any concerns and questions. And of course, updates (and photos of your guys).
Yeah, im trying to remember that time and seeing if there were obvious clues in-front of me at that time. Although sometimes i wonder about the many things that could’ve led up to this moment. I remember inquiring about changing their diet once to this guy who worked with reptiles at this exotic pet shop, and when he asked me where i bought the tortoises, i told them the store name and that I was about to go to the store to ask but I saw that the business was closed down. I was then told straight up (almost kinda yelling) that this particular store i bought the tortoises from was a horrible place and I should’ve never stepped foot in that store (they never took care of the animals they had and some had defects). I was surprised and I told the dude that that was the first time i’ve ever heard of that. When I got pancho he was still tiny (could fit in my palm) but noticed that his tail was sorta crooked. But his bowel system was good and I never had a thought of concern. But idk. Ever since then, I’ve wondered about the other animals from that shop and how they were treated and if they found homes somewhere else.

As for the time being, I started putting these huge rocks and wood as a barrier in the enclosure. I’ve separated them both using the rocks. It’s only temporary since my father and I just talked about renovating the enclosure and putting a physical barrier from now on.

I’ll try updating when everything’s over and done. Here’s another of my tortoise i took a picture of. His name is Nina. Named after the first turtle i lost.
 

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The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Unfortunately there are many tortoise breeders and sellers who don't take good care of their animals. I am more familiar with Mediterranean tortoises, and with them is really common for breeders to start them too dry. In the worst case scenario, nothing can be done when the tortoise reaches their owner and unfortunately, man pass away.

I wonder if there are similarly harmful common practices with breeding redfoots.
 

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