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Need Advice on Weather

Discussion in 'North American Tortoises (genus Gopherus)' started by Tarynitup, Apr 7, 2018.

  1. Tarynitup

    Tarynitup New Member

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    Hello!

    I recently acquired a family member’s desert tortoise—They were unable to take her to Colorado with them. She has lived in Southern California all of her 20+ years, and is now living in Roseville California. Her brumation was spent in a dog igloo in our garage. We monitored the temperature, and I believe it did not get below 44°. Our tortoise woke up on March 30, when the weather was starting to warm up. We had a few really warm days, and now it is rainy and cool. Yesterday she walked around in the rain. In the evenings, she sticks her head in the corner in the patio and sleeps. My question is this… How cold is too cold? I am so concerned about her being outside at night. In the next week the temperature is supposed to get down to around 42° at night. Should I bring her into the garage? I don’t want her wandering around in there but I don’t want her to be cold. I am so new to this and do not want anything to happen to this sweet old soul (I included a picture of her sleeping because she is so cute)

    A560730E-DBCB-4F37-BC77-3E4E367F6195.jpeg
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  2. izzzzzz6

    izzzzzz6 New Member

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    Hi. I am not the expert here but i think i can point you in the right direction, hopefully someone can follow this up and clarify.
    I have Greek tortoises but i guess a desert tortoise would like it even warmer than Greeks who like it pretty hot most of the time.

    Firstly, remember that if you add heat they still need somewhere cool that they can retreat to so that they may regulate their body temperatures themselves.

    So your Tortoise would need heat lamps and a UV reptile light for the times it is spending indoors (and a cooler dark hide or several hides if possible).
    Our tortoises caught a cold once because we did not have it hot enough for them at first. We had to medicate them with drugs from the vet administered by means of an atomiser spray. A respiratory infection can quickly turn lethal so watch out for any wheezing or snot bubbles from the nose. Some tortoises never recover.
    Generally tortoises can handle the wet but not for prolonged periods as shell rot could/will probably ensue.

    They need a flat bottomed dish that they can wallow in and drink (no deeper than the first set of scoots usually) And the water should be changed regularly.

    Generally people are advised to bath them in warm water several times a week (for 10 to 20 mins as long as the tortoise looks comfortable) so they can stay well hydrated but generally they should remain dry and have access to plenty of heat.

    We use old school 100W incandescent lamps with reflectors around 8" above the tortoise table or when the weather warms up they can go in their outdoor enclosure for most of the summer but that depends where you live. I see your in Nor Cal. I've been there but it's defiantly not as hot as So Cal so you will want to move them between indoor and outdoor enclosures as the seasons change. You can also keep your tortoises awake over the winter if you don't mind the electrical bill and if you have the space and time for them.

    Anyway, back to the heating thing. You can also use a heat mat as a compliment to the heat lamps, you can get different types of mats and heat lamps but positioning these can be a little tricky, it might take some experimenting to get the distance just right, i try to check with a thermometer under the heat source. You don't want them to be too cold or to burn either, i look for around 28-34C. The heat mat should only be under part of the enclosure as they also need to escape the heat.
    When outside they always need shade to retreat to, i put in a load of things they can hide under and i have two places with a roof (like 2 mini houses for them which stay 100% dry). If the weather gets really bad and cold i bring them in. Generally if the nights start to get below 10C i bring them in for the night. If the summer nights are warmer than this i leave them out. Currently i bring them in as here it is 1000M above sea level and spring has not yet kicked in, however we are on the southern face and sunny days already feel like summer here. Also it is good to beware of predators. You might need to protect against all sorts of potential predators. But this is generally less important for larger tortoises.


    We had just hibernated ours for the first time. We used the (large) wooden box technique.
    They need some aeration, check the humidity of the soil you are using, ours was a bit too damp with not enough aeration for a while. They like to burrow up and down as temps change. Again check this info for desert tortoises as i believe they like caves and perhaps a more sandy soil. I used some low quality soil (no added fertiliser and i mixed it with coconut shell chippings). The box should also be insulated to avoid temperature swings. Like you mentioned, it's really important they don't get too close to freezing as their eyes can freeze and then they go blind. You should also protect against rodents.

    So mainly remember to have heat and shade available make sure they get enough UV either by means of the sun or from a reptile lamp.
    Don't put a heat mat under their sleeping area at least not most of it depending on the size of their hide and the temperature of the room they are in when indoors. And when hibernating they should have soil deep enough to burrow in to unless you are using the fridge technique. Hibernation temperatures should be as stable as possible between 3C and 8C ideally.
    We try to feed ours natural weeds (check because some plants are toxic such as Sorell for example) We use mainly clover, plantain, & dandelion leaves but in the winter we can also feed them mache and various salad but some salads are too fatty and lack nourishment. They are allowed the occasion treat. Recently we gave them some cucumbers and one or two berries, even some tomato to help with rehydration after the hibernation period.
    There are plenty of things they should not eat so please spend some time looking into this. Some google searches and forum guidelines will help you.
    We turn the heat lamps off at night because they are in the living room but if they were in a colder place you would probably want to have some infra red heat source and at least one heat mat even at night. As long as they can still escape the heat when they want to. Hopefully you will find the information you need because i can't really speak for the desert tortoises needs. But i think these guidelines that we use for our greeks should help get you on the right tracks.
    How big is your tortoise?


    James and Kate
  3. izzzzzz6

    izzzzzz6 New Member

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    Note. I just wanted to add that there are halogen light bulbs that appear to look the same as incandescent lamps yet they are not suitable as they cause hot spots. The really old style bulbs can generally be used but check they are not the halogen types which have a smaller lamp inside the larger bulb, it should only have a thin filament inside the bulb and no more glass structure inside the main bulb.
  4. izzzzzz6

    izzzzzz6 New Member

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    Just a few last things. I remembered that we sometimes add a small amount of reptile supplement to their greens. You can find this online or in pet stores.
    I also give them a cuttle fish bone from time to time.
    I wanted to add that generally sand is not considered a good substrate but perhaps this does not apply to desert tortoises, better look into that one.
    Also i spray or sprinkle water every day or two over out tortoise table substrate when they are in the tortoise table inside as it can get a bit dry in the house, but again you had better check what is best for your species. We like the lower part of our substrate mix to be a little damp. Obviously the top will dry out quite quickly. If it's dry deep down then you probably want to sprinkle a bit extra water on or move the water dish around as they usually spill quite a bit as they drag themselves and substrate through the dish. Once the water dish is contaminated with substrate i usually tip any remaining water into the tortoise table then i clean and replace it. To be honest our tortoises seem to rarely drink from the dish so i do bath them as deep as their first scoots in luke warm water on a regular basis.

    Here is to years of happy tortoise keeping.
  5. Tarynitup

    Tarynitup New Member

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    Wow that is very complicated! I appreciate you taking the time to reply to me. I know my aunt and uncle were just very basic...The tortoise just walked around the yard in the warm months and hibernated in a box during the cold months. I just know that it is a bit colder here at night, especially now, and wanted to make sure it was OK. But I will see what I can do about putting a heat lamp near the spot where it likes to hole up for the night on the patio. She never mentioned anything about soaking the tortoise, so I will do that as well. I certainly do not want her to become ill. She is about the size of a basketball, maybe a little larger. I do know she is in her early 20s
  6. izzzzzz6

    izzzzzz6 New Member

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    I would defiantly add some heat lamps until temps get consistently above 16C. It's much warmer in So Cal.
    When you soak her try to make sure it's not too cold afterwards so she gets a good chance to dry out. If she is a desert tortoise i believe they are generally quite resilient to long periods without water but as far as i understand it is best to make sure your tortoise is always well hydrated. Perhaps someone on the forum knows more about desert tortoises. I read that they are fairly inactive tortoises so that they may conserve water. Generally a flat bottom water dish should be provided but some tortoises won't drink unless they are having a soak.
    Perhaps a combination of a small heat mat and some heat lamps of your choice would work well until summer kicks in. The thing with using heat lamps outdoors is that any wind can cool down the heat source. It can difficult to find the correct distance from the heat lamp to the tortoise because too far and it is not effective, too close and it can burn them on/in the tops of their shells.
    Some people build sheds for their tortoises or modify greenhouses. Although heat is important it is also very important that the tortoise can find shade at any time so that they may regulate their own temperatures.
    As far as diet go's i think you should look up what that species can eat and try to provide some of the recommended foods if possible.
    Ps. our tortoises sometimes put their heads under the water for long periods, as long as your soaking bath is not deeper than the first set of scoots you should be ok. Ours seem to put their heads under to clean any tiny bugs off of them then they clean their eyes with their front legs.
    They say to soak for around 20 mins in luke warm water but sometimes ours seem to want to get out after 5 mins or so. Perhaps the water is too warm for them sometimes and they want to escape the heat? Perhaps they just don't want to be in the water too long? But it shouldn't be too cold either.
    Just check for respiratory disease, our tortoises caught a cold when we had their tortoise table too cold a few years back just after getting them. Listen for breathing problems such as wheezing or snot bubbles from the nostrils. You don't ever really want to get to this stage because some tortoises never recover from respiratory infection. I don't want to scare you but i think the extra heat is a really good idea. Perhaps someone on the forum is in your area?
    I would keep reading about desert tortoises and see what you can do to make her habitat comfortable for her. She will appreciate it.
  7. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    In summer your tortoise can burrow and you'll be good to go. In Fall, Spring and Winter, your tortoise needs some help with warmth. The easiest way to do it in our climate is to make a box like this: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/

    Recently I added a heat lamp to one of my outdoor boxes to combat this issue, and it works exceedingly well.

    Care for DTs is just like care for russians. These should help:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
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  8. ascott

    ascott Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Hi. I appears that while your area temps will drop some over the next week or so, you will not reach below freezing temps, right?

    One important thing to remember with this species is that they can handle cool to cold DRY situations, or they can handle WARM moist situations...but not COLD MOIST / WET situations....

    If the temps and weather change suddenly and the tort does not yet have outdoor living conditions set up, then yes, I would bring the tort into the garage during the night and also during days where the weather is cold and wet..so if it were me, I would make sure that the tort is not sitting directly on concrete to shell....it appears that you are using a crate in the pic? that will work. I would place a couple of layers of cardboard between the crate and the concrete in the garage...so there is some insulation available between animal and concrete.

    I am all about the simple. How long ago did the tort relocate your the new home? What type of space did you establish for the tort in its new home? How long did you have the tort PRIOR to it going into the igloo for the winter months? How was the tort set up at its prior home? oh and, 20+ years old is actually a youngster for this species :)
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  9. Razan

    Razan Well-Known Member

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    Keeping it easy. Have to appreciate that. My practice has been to overnight out DT inside when Springtime temps are low or wet. One year I let him make his own decision about where he wanted to be and he ended up with a raspy, whistling condition for a bit. Not good. Now his cool and wet weather schedule is to come inside. When it is below 65 he is brought in. If it is rainy he is brought in for the night. Don't want him sick again.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
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