New to hibernation!

New Desert Tortoise Mommy

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Hey everyone i have 3 desert torts that are a little over a year i have owned them since they were 1 week old. Nd they never gone into hibernation. Its not that cold yet in California so i still have been keeping them outside in the day to get sun but i noticed they have stopped eating maybe a few bites if that but really nothing. Is it time to hibernate? We dont have the heater on in the house so its normal temp al ittle chilly but they still get up in the morning nd want to go outside. So what should i do to hibernate? How do i keep them in hibernation? Any other advice please and thank you :)
 

Yvonne G

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Most of what I have are older tortoises, but every so often I decide to keep one of the babies that come to me to be adopted out. I don't hibernate them until they're about 3 years of age. Reason that figure sticks in my mind is because it is recommended to not register a desert tortoise until he's about 3. So I figure if they are that fragile from hatch to 3 years, then I won't hibernate either.

You sometimes hear the argument, "Well, baby tortoises hibernate in the wild, don't they?" My answer to that is, "How many baby tortoises come out of hibernation in the wild, and how many actually die in the burrow?"
 

puffy137

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My Greeks adults are getting lethargic, they are outside in their enclosure with 2 houses that I have stuffed with dried grass cuttings, they can burrow down into the soil under this too. The older males are still pretty active , but the babies I know from experience will not go to sleep. they will always appear when the sun gets to them at around 11 am , which is when I feed them now, A few months ago when the weather was really hot, 48*c, etc they would be all up at the crack of dawn, We only get very cold weather for a few days in Jan, maybe it might hit freezing then , but if it does I'm sure they will be nice & snug under the grass & earth till it warms up again.
 

kathyth

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I would not hibernate the youngsters yet. I would put them out on warm days as you do and on cooler days and all nights keep them at normal temps. If hibernation was " good" for them I might but from everything I understand, it's nothing more than a survival skill in the wild. My adult Calif. Desert hibernates every fall. She has been down for weeks already.
Good luck!
 

ascott

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Hey everyone i have 3 desert torts that are a little over a year i have owned them since they were 1 week old. Nd they never gone into hibernation. Its not that cold yet in California so i still have been keeping them outside in the day to get sun but i noticed they have stopped eating maybe a few bites if that but really nothing. Is it time to hibernate? We dont have the heater on in the house so its normal temp al ittle chilly but they still get up in the morning nd want to go outside. So what should i do to hibernate? How do i keep them in hibernation? Any other advice please and thank you :)

The need to brumate is a strong desire in some tortoise species and even more so in individual tortoise in those species....if your little ones are showing some of the desires to rest, then perhaps you can offer them a short brumation ---this way they will satisfy that drive that they are likely experiencing.....you can offer them a wind down (no food supplements, continue to take them out and in for a week or so but bring them out a little later in the day and shorten their entire outside time--offer them a good tepid (not cold but not too warm) water soak to allow opportunity for water intake/uptake--and don't place them in a heated enclosure when you bring them in)...you should also determine where is a prime accessible (for you) and safe location for them to rest (which I would say 4 to 5 weeks would be sufficient, if it were me) determine the hibernacle in which they will rest --the container (cardboard box or rubbermaid tote, etc) for rest would be completely determined by where you plan to place it.....once you have done your wind down...place the little ones in their spots (I would not house them together in the same container, but each to their own) and let them settle in over the next couple of days (if you must peek, do so quietly and during the night with a very very dim light)..also, their containers should be close to custom size to their individual size and should be 2 to 3 times as tall as the tort would be if he was leaning upward on the sides of the container...this will allow a bit of room for the turn about that they do but not too large to get themselves in a roll over situation....since they are young, you can plan to do a soak for the tort about 2 to 3 times during the entire rest to assure they don't dehydrate....

Also, remember to have a well set up indoor enclosure for when you rouse the little ones...when rousing, you will do the reverse of what you did when you did the wind down.....and the gradual warm up should be just that...gradual and not plop right into a 100+ degree basking spot :)D).

With this species, I have adult torts here....but this is exactly what I would do and I base this on their needs as a tortoise, taking into account that they are a little more delicate due to their age....but they are still a tort of this species....age does not dismiss deep seeded drive...
 

New Desert Tortoise Mommy

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Well actually i have another wuestion, so they havnt ate for 2 days and today i heard them scratching not that long ago in their box in my roo, nd i go to checj on them and they are actually all sleeping nd its 11am. What if they go in to hibernation without me knowing? Do i wake them up even tho they are sleeping?
 

Tom

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They will not be able to hibernate at room temp. Its too warm. You will need to decide to either keep them up, or hibernate them properly. Right now they are in a bit of a "limbo", and that is not good. I've used the following methods for dozens of DTs from babies to adults, as well as many other tortoise and reptile species that come from areas with a natural hibernation period.

While I have kept hibernating species awake through winter and I know others have successfully done it too, it is my opinion that species that hibernate in the wild should also hibernate in captivity. It just needs to be done correctly. Leaving them outside to figure it out and deal with the rigors of winter in the small spaces (like backyards) that we stick them in, is not my idea of doing it "correctly". I know far too many that have died this way. Don't let these horror stories from people who did not properly prepare, or hibernate their animals in a safe, controlled way, scare you. Hibernation is totally natural and totally safe when a few simple guidelines are observed. Simple Guidelines:
1. Bring them down, and up, gradually.
2. Make sure their gut is empty before dropping temps. Two weeks of no food with the normal warm temps should do it.
3. Make sure they are well hydrated by soaking them, before and after hibernation.
4. Make sure the temperature is consistent and cold enough for the entire hibernation time.
5. Don't let them do it in a self dug burrow in your backyard. NOT safe!

To keep them up: You will need to keep them warm, day and night. The enclosure needs to be nice and bright too, so add a 6500K florescent tube, if need be. I set lights to come on an hour or two before the sun comes up and stay on for a good two hours after the sun goes down. Daily warm soaks, or every other day, seems to help convince their brains that its not sleepy time. I would still give them outside time all winter long as long as its sunny and warm-ish. The sun really helps and we have such nice mild winters here in SoCal.

To hibernate them: The dangerous parts of hibernation (flooding, burrow collapse, rodents, temperature extremes, etc..) can all be eliminated by bringing them inside into controlled conditions and prepping them correctly. While they have adapted to survive these conditions out in the wild for millennia, our back yards are not the wild. Not even close. The shallow burrows they construct in our yards are not enough to protect them from the whims of a cruel mother nature, and as Yvonne adeptly pointed out, many of them don't survive hibernation in the wild, or outdoors in captivity either. I have hibernated all ages of DTs using the following methods: It is often said that "tortoises do better outside". True some of the time in some instances, but not all of the time in all instances. Most babies actually do better inside most of the time. As such, when night temps really start to drop, as they did about two weeks ago, I bring small hibernating species of tortoises inside to their indoor set ups every evening. I feed them up for a good two or three weeks, and soak them daily or every other day. Then I leave the timers and heat and everything on and running, but I quit feeding them. I give them around two weeks with no food, daily soaks, and warm day time temps, as usual. After those two weeks, I start adjusting the light timers down and raise the fixtures a bit to lower basking temps. I let night temps drop as low as is practical for indoors. I'll do this for another week or two. Then I put them into their individual hibernacula. I use plastic shoe boxes, or something similar, with a couple of inches of substrate on the bottom. I keep them dry at this time. In the past I've used non-functioning fridges or freezers laid on their backs in a cool area to keep the shoe boxes in. Currently the floor of my garage stays around 50-55 all winter and I've used that for the last few years. The problem is that we keep having these weird warm winters with daily highs in the 80s or 90s sometimes, for days or weeks on end. Good for my non-hibernating species, but not so good for the hibernators. This year I'm getting them a dedicated fridge, so I don't have to worry about the weather and I won't have to try to fight the temperature outside. I'll set it to around 45 degrees F. I let first timers go for 8-10 weeks under these controlled conditions. Older ones will go for 12-16 weeks. I watch the temps, but I don't mess with them during hibernation. When the weather starts to warm up, I gradually warm up the fridge and let warmer air into the hibernation area, and at some point after a few days, I pull them out, soak them in shallow room temp water, and put them back into their indoor enclosures with no heat. Just room temp. I soak daily for a bout two weeks. After a few days, I will turn the lights on. I leave the fixtures at their higher adjustment at first and gradually, over the course of a few days, lower them back down to get the right basking temps. After the tortoises activity level comes up, and they start moving around more, I will begin offering food, and letting them run around in their outdoor pens on warmer days, but I still bring them in to escape the cold nights. For older/bigger tortoises that can't come back inside, I simply use an outdoor heated night box to do just about the same thing. The night box more or less takes the place of the indoor enclosure and gives me a way to keep them warmer at night while preparing for hibernation or coming out of it.

The above methods have worked perfectly for me for many years with a wide variety of reptile species. The only time I ever lost an animal during hibernation is when I took the advice of a very knowledgeable man, who didn't understand our climate, and let my tegus hibernate outside as he did in his climate. I lost two out of three that year. It was heartbreaking.

I don't have set dates for any of this, and I sort of go by "feel" and the weather on either end of hibernation. If we have a long summer with a warm fall, I wait longer to put them down. If we have an early spring, I wake them up sooner. Generally I try to get them down by December, and get them up sometime in March.


I know that is a lot to read. Please feel free to ask lots of questions. We will help you, whichever way you decide to go.
 

Ciri

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The need to brumate is a strong desire in some tortoise species and even more so in individual tortoise in those species....if your little ones are showing some of the desires to rest, then perhaps you can offer them a short brumation ---this way they will satisfy that drive that they are likely experiencing.....you can offer them a wind down (no food supplements, continue to take them out and in for a week or so but bring them out a little later in the day and shorten their entire outside time--offer them a good tepid (not cold but not too warm) water soak to allow opportunity for water intake/uptake--and don't place them in a heated enclosure when you bring them in)...you should also determine where is a prime accessible (for you) and safe location for them to rest (which I would say 4 to 5 weeks would be sufficient, if it were me) determine the hibernacle in which they will rest --the container (cardboard box or rubbermaid tote, etc) for rest would be completely determined by where you plan to place it.....once you have done your wind down...place the little ones in their spots (I would not house them together in the same container, but each to their own) and let them settle in over the next couple of days (if you must peek, do so quietly and during the night with a very very dim light)..also, their containers should be close to custom size to their individual size and should be 2 to 3 times as tall as the tort would be if he was leaning upward on the sides of the container...this will allow a bit of room for the turn about that they do but not too large to get themselves in a roll over situation....since they are young, you can plan to do a soak for the tort about 2 to 3 times during the entire rest to assure they don't dehydrate....

Also, remember to have a well set up indoor enclosure for when you rouse the little ones...when rousing, you will do the reverse of what you did when you did the wind down.....and the gradual warm up should be just that...gradual and not plop right into a 100+ degree basking spot :)D).

With this species, I have adult torts here....but this is exactly what I would do and I base this on their needs as a tortoise, taking into account that they are a little more delicate due to their age....but they are still a tort of this species....age does not dismiss deep seeded drive...
These are great suggestions. I would just add that when I hibernate I first take them to my reptile specialist that for a pre-hibernation checkup. I have tried over the years to decipher when they are sick but it's really difficult to tell. If they are sick, the risk of losing them during hibernation is much greater.

At this young age, during hibernation I would suggest soaking them every two weeks, and weighing them at that time. (You can just use a kitchen scale.) I record in grams because is just much easier to keep track. My reptile vet has told me that if they lose more than 7% of of their original pre-hibernation weight and cannot gain it back through soaking, that I need to bring them in for a checkup. Too much weight loss can be a sign that they are ill. Since their immune system will shut down for the time they are in hibernation, it really helps to watch for any signs of problems.

The San Diego turtle and tortoise Society does an annual pre-hibernation check up for members for a nominal fee. This is probably already taken place this year, but you could check around for other turtle and tortoise clubs who might still have such an event. They are also good resources for looking for a good reptile that should you decide you want one.

Best of luck with the little ones.
 

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