New tort owner please help

allyenc

New Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
California
A lil over a week ago a desert tortoise showed up in our front yard so we looked for lost tortoises everywhere (online and social media) to see if we can find its owner but nothing. It doesnt seem like a wild tort because of where it was found and its reaction to humans so we decided to keep and take care of it (getting a permit asap). Were pretty sure its a male and weve been doing research ever since to make sure it has a happy and healthy life but i have a question about hibernation. Should it hibernate? If so for reference it has an outdoor enclosure/home and we live in the AV. Summers are very hot here (90-105). Fall just started so its still around 90 but its usually 80-70. During winter its 60-30 and these past few years its snowed so Im worried. What should I do if it snows and the tort is in hibernation? I dont want it to freeze or get sick. I know the temperature should stay the same so ive seen people bring it indoors, garage, get a shed, and etc but I dont know whats best.

Also we dont know its age so if any of you can tell please let me know. Sorry this is long and thank you for any help in advance!

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Last edited:

KarenSoCal

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 8, 2017
Messages
4,991
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Hello, and welcome to being a tort keeper!

I used to have a DT named Chug who unfortunately died last spring. Now I have a different species, but your pictures really reminded me of him.

It's hard to tell in the photos just what his size is, but he looks similar to Chug. He was 7 lbs, about 8-9 inches long, and we thought around 13-14 years old, in case that helps. If you take a couple pictures of his plastron, including the tail area, we can help you decide if he's a he or she.

In case you haven't read it, here's a link to our care sheet for him. DT's are the same care as Russians.


As for hibernation, some keepers recommend that if you've only had a particular tortoise for a short time, that you should not brumate him the first winter. A tortoise has to be in excellent health and properly prepared for brumation, and you haven't had him long enough to be sure he is healthy.

You can try to keep him awake. He would need to be inside in an enclosure ideally at least 4ft x 8ft. His lights would need to be on for about 14 hours a day, and he would need to be kept warm.

If you choose to brumate him, as you said, there are lots of ways keepers do it. Some allow torts to stay outside in their burrow. To me, this is the worst way. The tortoise needs to be at a constant temp of about 50 degrees. Where I live the temp in the daytime can be nearly 80, and at night it's in the 30's. The tort cannot brumate properly in temp fluctuations like this. He is vulnerable to attack by ants or rats. His burrow might flood or collapse. And you may not be able to reach him in an emergency.

People box them up and put them in a garage or shed. This is better than a burrow, but depending on your climate, the temp fluctuations are still a problem, along with possible rats. In a garage, he is exposed to car exhaust.

In my opinion, and the way I brumated Chug, the best way is in an operating refrigerator, set to 45-50 degrees. None of the mentioned hazards are possible. Several members use this method, and it takes so much worry away.

There is, however, a time of at least 2 weeks during which you need to prepare the tortoise to go into the fridge. Actually, this prep time is needed no matter where you put him for the brumation. In a nutshell, the tortoise must completely stop eating. He might do that on his own, since he knows winter is coming. After he stops eating, he needs at least 2 weeks to be sure he completely empties his gut. He still drinks water during this time. He also needs to be slowly cooled to fridge temp. You don't want to take him at 70 degrees and just put him in 50 degrees. He needs to be slowly cooled so his core temp drops. While brumating, his heart rate and respirations drop way low, saving his body's resources to last 3-4 months. That's why the temp needs to be reasonably steady.

Here's a link about cooling him down. This is the proper way to do it. What I did was let the weather assist me. I blocked Chug's burrow, waited for him to stop eating, and let him stay outside until nights were 45-50. He was mostly sleeping at this point in a dog igloo with lots of dirt in it to dig down. Early one morning, while it was cold, I'd go get him and bring him in, box him up, and into the fridge for the winter. The weather in spring determined when I would start warming him and get him up.


This has turned into a novel, but it's a lot to explain. Others will have different opinions and different methods. Just remember that climate has a lot of weight when deciding what to do.
 

Ink

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
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Joined
Jun 10, 2016
Messages
1,043
Location (City and/or State)
Virginia
Congrats on your new tortoise
 

allyenc

New Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hello, and welcome to being a tort keeper!

I used to have a DT named Chug who unfortunately died last spring. Now I have a different species, but your pictures really reminded me of him.

It's hard to tell in the photos just what his size is, but he looks similar to Chug. He was 7 lbs, about 8-9 inches long, and we thought around 13-14 years old, in case that helps. If you take a couple pictures of his plastron, including the tail area, we can help you decide if he's a he or she.

In case you haven't read it, here's a link to our care sheet for him. DT's are the same care as Russians.


As for hibernation, some keepers recommend that if you've only had a particular tortoise for a short time, that you should not brumate him the first winter. A tortoise has to be in excellent health and properly prepared for brumation, and you haven't had him long enough to be sure he is healthy.

You can try to keep him awake. He would need to be inside in an enclosure ideally at least 4ft x 8ft. His lights would need to be on for about 14 hours a day, and he would need to be kept warm.

If you choose to brumate him, as you said, there are lots of ways keepers do it. Some allow torts to stay outside in their burrow. To me, this is the worst way. The tortoise needs to be at a constant temp of about 50 degrees. Where I live the temp in the daytime can be nearly 80, and at night it's in the 30's. The tort cannot brumate properly in temp fluctuations like this. He is vulnerable to attack by ants or rats. His burrow might flood or collapse. And you may not be able to reach him in an emergency.

People box them up and put them in a garage or shed. This is better than a burrow, but depending on your climate, the temp fluctuations are still a problem, along with possible rats. In a garage, he is exposed to car exhaust.

In my opinion, and the way I brumated Chug, the best way is in an operating refrigerator, set to 45-50 degrees. None of the mentioned hazards are possible. Several members use this method, and it takes so much worry away.

There is, however, a time of at least 2 weeks during which you need to prepare the tortoise to go into the fridge. Actually, this prep time is needed no matter where you put him for the brumation. In a nutshell, the tortoise must completely stop eating. He might do that on his own, since he knows winter is coming. After he stops eating, he needs at least 2 weeks to be sure he completely empties his gut. He still drinks water during this time. He also needs to be slowly cooled to fridge temp. You don't want to take him at 70 degrees and just put him in 50 degrees. He needs to be slowly cooled so his core temp drops. While brumating, his heart rate and respirations drop way low, saving his body's resources to last 3-4 months. That's why the temp needs to be reasonably steady.

Here's a link about cooling him down. This is the proper way to do it. What I did was let the weather assist me. I blocked Chug's burrow, waited for him to stop eating, and let him stay outside until nights were 45-50. He was mostly sleeping at this point in a dog igloo with lots of dirt in it to dig down. Early one morning, while it was cold, I'd go get him and bring him in, box him up, and into the fridge for the winter. The weather in spring determined when I would start warming him and get him up.


This has turned into a novel, but it's a lot to explain. Others will have different opinions and different methods. Just remember that climate has a lot of weight when deciding what to do.
This was super helpful! Thank you so so much for all the information i appreciate it. I will take everything you just said into consideration and try to make the best decision for him. Thank you once again :)
 
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