One (injured?) showed up on doorstep in Michigan!

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Rayvens3cubs

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Hi, I am new here and looking for some immediate advice and some long-term advice. Tonight, our neighbors contacted us and they had a Russian Tortoise (pretty certain that's what she is) literally show up on their doorstep - yep, walked right up their wheelchair ramp to say hello! We are in West Michigan, so clearly this beautiful creature is NOT a local native.
She is now home with us (animal-crazy, homeschooling family that we are) so her safety is assured for the time-being. The kids already raided the garden for some Buttercrunch Lettuce, and she quite happily received a solid soaking (definately livened her up a bit, and her skin looks WAY healthier already), but my IMMEDIATE concern involves 2 large cracks in her shell. She has one on the top, near the front of the shell, and one very large one on the back quarter of her shell, about 1/2-3/4 of the way across. They do go all the way through her shell as far as I can tell, but they don't seem to be debilitating, and I don't have the faintest clue how to go about dealing with this.
We have 2 aquatic turtles already, but we've had those two since they were babies so we've not had to deal with injuries like this on a turtle. Could this get infected? Is there some home-remedy we could use in the meantime to help prevent infection/illness or to help facilitate healing... or even something as simple as Neosporin? Are there *specific* foods we should be concentrating on feeding her to promote healing or shell growth? Certain temperatures or other environmental concerns we could address to help promote healing or prevent further injury/infection?

We acquired a general list of edible foods and toxic foods for her, and we do have a good many of them already in our garden or in our yard (mostly "organic" maintainance yard, not chemical-sprayed or anything), so general food isn't a problem. We put together a temporary enclosure in a storage tote with a metal grate to discourage our kitties, and will go first thing in the morning to pick up some sand (the only substrate we have is a shredded bark substrate we use with our pet toads, and our occasional snakey visitors), but what other immediate concerns should be addressed here? (especially in light of her injury....... should she have access to deeper water? something besides a water dish? should she be under UV lights? Would outdoors be best? Also, what kind of "shade" or security should she have access to? Something she can go under, or will she bury just fine if the sand is deep enough?? Indirect light better than direct sun I assume....correct?)

I should note here, that we ARE interested in finding a potential owner, if one exists......however.....I will admit, I'm a bit leery of this search (vs. the typical "stray dog getting home safe" search) for a variety of reasons, including the injuries in the first place. Is there a way to tell how recent those injuries are? Do you think it's more likely she was abandoned or released, rather than a recent escapee? Our home and yard is a total wildlife refuge, but it IS smack in the middle of the city. Fairly wooded neighborhood with some "drainage creeks" and such nearby.... Plus we have a small pond in our fenced in yard that a lot of urban wildlife & local feline-wanderers use as their personal water-dish (poor frogs hate that!)....is it possible she's surviving on her own? Could she get around without being spotted by anyone? Could a tortoise like that even survive a Michigan winter if hibernating? Any thoughts on this one?

On a side note, is there a reliable way to tell approximately how old this girl is? We're pretty sure she's female, based on web searches, but I haven't yet seen any info on age-determination. She's currently being held to the name "Luna" and she's really a gorgeous, gorgeous creature. Regardless of whether she is returned home to an anxious owner, rehomed to another happy family, or becomes a permenant member of THIS spoiled zoo, I am honored for my family and I to get to know her.

I know there's a lot of questions and uncertainty here, and I'm sure some of it will get answered over the next day or two as we continue searching for answers, but in the meantime any help you can provide would be awesome - especially on the immediate injury, safety and feeding concerns. Thanks in advance, feel free to holler if you have any other questions.
 

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ascott

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Welcome and very kind of you to take this one in :D

I would not house in sand...can be ingested and cause impaction.

Soaking is good, just make certain the water remains clean (due to the possible open wounds).

You really should take her to the vet to have em take a look at the damage to the shell, you may be able to get an antibiotic to help avoid any infection.

Sounds as though you have a general idea of their food requirements and yes, long term an outdoor enclosure for the warmer time of year would be very beneficial, these are great escape artists, so will want to really make sure you give the outdoor enclosure a good once/twice over :D and do periodic perimeter checks for any breach :p

If you are going to keep her indoors, then you will need to have a heat source (light) and also UV rays light.....

You will have others that offer their take on her, so hang on a bit and the info will start to roll in... :p
 

Rayvens3cubs

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Thanks for the heads up! I will definately stay tuned for any suggestions from others.

She is definately in caring hands, and although we've had an amazingly wide variety of wild animals, stray animals, and more come to stay with us for various time periods, a Russian Tortoise is definately a new one for our family. It was interesting watching the crew jump into action though, instantly assessing, identifying, researching, putting together enclosure(s), gathering food, preparing a proper & sanitary bath, googling food lists, etc etc etc etc.....LOL....... Homeschooling at it's best!

No sand. Noted. What do I use instead of sand? Would the dirt/bark mix be better? Hay or straw maybe?

I have a heck of a vet but he doesn't do reptiles...... Any suggestions for reputable rept. vets in the area? We've always done our own vet-work on anything but the cats/dogs and horses so this is new to me too. Could I use something simple like Neosporin in the short-term, since it's on her shell and not reachable by her mouth or feet? Anything herbal I could use?

I do have an extra clamp light that (might) give enough heat (would that get too hot in a tote box?), but I don't have an extra UV bulb at the moment..... Would a flourescent fixture/bulb suffice temporarily if we move her outside during the day? Not long-term obviously, but at least while we do an owner-search? I'd rather not drop the $ on another UV light until we know if she's staying......if possible.

I see that Russian Tortoises are also great climbers........ Suggestions for the most secure way to keep them in while keeping racoons (and our kitties) OUT, while in an outdoor enclosure?
Oh, and how deep to make a water bowl so she can climb in/out easily....or however they actually drink it. (do they climb in? I keep picturing our toads who frequently dog-pile in one water dish at the same time, no matter how many there are in their enclosure)

On a side note, would the plastic tote box thingy we have her in at the moment be acceptable temporary housing? I DO have an extra 55gal glass aquarium we could pretty easily put her in if necessary, but the glass provides less privacy/security for her if she's scared........just a thought.
 

dmmj

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A plastic tote makes an acceptable home for now, no worries there, i am not an expert but it look like old damage to me, I don't see any blood or gaping wounds. The main thing I would be concerned about is internal damage most tortoises are experts at hiding injuries, you know showing weakness in the wild and all will get you eaten. If you try and look for the owner don't say what type of tortoise you have (russian BTW in case there was any doubt) just state in the ad or flyer " tortoise found please call to describe". A non herp vet should at the very least be able to tell if there are internal injuries and stuff like that. My russian soak on their own I use a big terra cotta planter dish and let them go from there.
 

Laura

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beofre you spend a bunch of money, you should try to find the owner.. put up a generic Found Tortoise sign... and see if anyone is missing thiers.
WElcome!
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Ryavens3cubs:

Welcome to the Tortoise Forum!!

I'm not sure, but I think you are seeing old injuries...nothing fresh. Also, I think Luna is Luno.

May we know your name?
 

Rayvens3cubs

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@ Laura : Will do, thanks! My initial reaction (especially in light of injuries) was to wonder how the heck you would/could lose a TORTOISE of all things, but given these guys' reputation as master escape artists, I am far more inclined to think there is a caring owner out there somewhere. We will continue looking, but at least she's safe for now and I want to make her as comfortable and happy as possible for the time she is here, even if it's a short time. New UV lamp may be out of the question, but the rest (other than a substrate) is pretty well covered already.
Also, you think Luna is Male? Maybe we misunderstood the info we found initially.... I will post some more pics later today and maybe you can tell me for sure :)





Welcome to the Tortoise Forum!!

I'm not sure, but I think you are seeing old injuries...nothing fresh. Also, I think Luna is Luno.

May we know your name?
[/quote]
 

egyptiandan

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It looks like a male to me also :) Also the "injury" is just new growth on a tortoise that hasn't grown in a while. The growth isn't the best either, thats why it looks like an injury. The best thing to do for the carapace (top shell) is to cover it with a light layer of vasoline (I'd normally tell someone to just do the scute seams, but I might lose you there :D). This will help the carapace grow normally after a long period of no growth.

Danny
 

Kristina

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I agree with Danny 100%. What you are seeing is not an injury, but rather the result of poor husbandry.

Here is an article that I wrote to help those new to tortoises, and will help you get him set up correctly.

http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread...ive-or-Beginner-Tortoise-Owners#axzz1TiKRkWgM

I also should point out that I am also in Michigan, and if you find yourself needing help, please do not hesitate to ask.
 

Rayvens3cubs

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Thanks for all the welcomes & hellos! Nice to see an active and friendly group here :) My name is Ann, for those who have asked, but Rayven works just as well.

On the Luna/Luno note, what exactly do you look for to tell the difference between male/female? We just glanced at one link and the info seemed to match with the female descrip but then again, it was late at night, we'd already had an exhausting day and then the neighbors contacted us about the turtle and.... well, determining sex wasn't exactly our main priority right then.

So, most likely a growth issue, not an injury issue....... Is that from nutrient deficiency? Improper housing? You said it was growth after a long period of non-growth..... Would that have happened AFTER she escaped (or was dumped) or do you think it's an older thing that maybe has been addressed by a new owner and she just escaped a new owner? (does that make sense what I'm asking?) Something I should be concerned about if returning her to an owner??? Will it heal if she's given proper nutrition from here on out? I am taking the vaseline suggestion for her shell, and since we already have 2 aquatic turtles (a Red-Eared Slider & a Painted Turtle) I actually know what you meant by scute seams....lol.... Thanks Egyptiandan! On that same note, we do have a shell-conditioner we use periodically on our aquatic turtles, would that be at all helpful? If so, should I put it over or under the vaseline?

She seems pretty happy right now, but since I don't know how long she's been out of access to water, should I give her regular soaking for the time being or really just let her have access to it and let her decide (as suggested for general purposes)?

@ Kristina : Thanks for the link, and I will holler directly if I run into any issues. However, if you could give me some general advice (or links to RELIABLE advice) on outdoor enclosures in Michigan, and how to determine when it's okay/safe for them to be outside, how to hibernate them properly in this climate, etc. that would be GREAT. If we cannot find an owner, I'm betting good money that she will stay on as a permenant member of our crew so this info will be especially helpful for fall/winter planning....thanks a bunch.
 

egyptiandan

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Hard to say if it was the wrong foods, not enough food or the wrong living conditions so as to make him not want to eat. Whatever has happened can't be "fixed", but you can have any new growth be more even and look better with all the scute seams being able to grow and giving him the right nutrition. I'd stick with just the vasoline on the scute seams. Use the vasoline until you see new growth between a seam, once that happens you don't have to put vasoline on the particular seam. Just keep doing it on the seams that haven't grown yet.
These are males http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-SEX-ID-and-wc-or-cb?highlight=sex#axzz1TUgh5mtF
This is a female http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-ID-and-Sex-again-please#axzz1TUgh5mtF

Danny
 

Kristina

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Rayvens3cubs said:
@ Kristina : Thanks for the link, and I will holler directly if I run into any issues. However, if you could give me some general advice (or links to RELIABLE advice) on outdoor enclosures in Michigan, and how to determine when it's okay/safe for them to be outside, how to hibernate them properly in this climate, etc. that would be GREAT. If we cannot find an owner, I'm betting good money that she will stay on as a permenant member of our crew so this info will be especially helpful for fall/winter planning....thanks a bunch.


As far as enclosures, it needs to be dig proof and also climb proof. Here was my solution - (step by step pics)

http://s285.photobucket.com/albums/...urtle Enclosures - Outdoor/Russian Tortoises/

Mine are out usually April-October, as soon as it stays above 50* at night, and is warmer during the day. I do not hibernate. It is an unnecessary risk, and our climate is not conducive to hibernating. Our falls and winters are SOOO wet, that you are more likely to lose your tortoise to drowning or sickness than not. I strongly recommend against hibernating outdoors. Look at it this way - if you bring your tortoise in, you KNOW it is going to survive the winter. Can you really sit there for almost 6 months and wonder if she is alive under all that snow? No way I could do it, and I won't risk their lives that way.
 

Angi

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I am just throwing this out there. Do you thing they should look for the owner if the poor growth is the result of bad living conditions?
 

Kristina

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That is a tough question Angie. Morally, it is only the right thing to do. It isn't right to take someone else's property even when that property is a living thing that may have not been well cared for. The best you can do is when you find the owner, point out the problem areas, explain what caused them, hand them a well articulated care sheet and offer to be of help in the future should they need it, maintaining a polite demeanor. It can be hard, I know all too well.

No one knows for sure if it was the owner or a previous owner that caused the health issue. So it isn't right just to keep it, in my opinion.

SILVERSTAR said:
i would keep it if i were you,whoever owned it before let it get hurt and obviously wasnt keepn a good eye on it.

That isn't fair. You don't know for sure that the current owner is the reason that it has bad growth (it is NOT injured) and as far as keeping a good eye on it - heck, Russians are ESCAPE ARTISTS. How many long term keepers on here have had a Russian come up missing for a week or two? I have had two of mine get out on separate occasions, does that mean you guys should come take my tortoises and keep them, because I am a bad owner?
 

bikerchicspain

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Angi said:
I am just throwing this out there. Do you thing they should look for the owner if the poor growth is the result of bad living conditions?

I totally agree, I would be inclined to keep him as he is obviously in a better home now.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind! Okay so the owner might miss him and didn't know how to look after him properly and could be educated.

But on the other hand it could be someone that really doesn't give a rats *** about him, and if they get him back he could get worse or even death, maybe that's why he ESCAPED in the first place..
 

Rayvens3cubs

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Thank you Kristina. The articles and information you've provided are awesome and will be HUGELY helpful...I will review them again in more depth this weekend. I have to go out of town for a couple of days (planned trip) so I've contacted a reptile-minded friend of mine to pet-sit HIM individually while the rest of the zoo stays home with our usual friends house/pet-sitting (yep, he's male and his name is now Arthur I guess, at least that's what the kids are set on) and have given her the link to this location, just in case. She's a sweetheart, a sucker for herps of all sorts, and has a couple of days off work anyway so I'm betting he'll be uh...spoiled, by the time we return. Just wanted to give you a heads' up so you know why I'm disappearing for a couple of days and in case she comes here for any questions. Thanks a ton for all your help, and in general, for taking the time to write those awesome, helpful articles that I'm certain will be of great use to many new tortoise-folk.



Kristina said:
Rayvens3cubs said:
@ Kristina : Thanks for the link, and I will holler directly if I run into any issues. However, if you could give me some general advice (or links to RELIABLE advice) on outdoor enclosures in Michigan, and how to determine when it's okay/safe for them to be outside, how to hibernate them properly in this climate, etc. that would be GREAT. If we cannot find an owner, I'm betting good money that she will stay on as a permenant member of our crew so this info will be especially helpful for fall/winter planning....thanks a bunch.


As far as enclosures, it needs to be dig proof and also climb proof. Here was my solution - (step by step pics)

http://s285.photobucket.com/albums/...urtle Enclosures - Outdoor/Russian Tortoises/

Mine are out usually April-October, as soon as it stays above 50* at night, and is warmer during the day. I do not hibernate. It is an unnecessary risk, and our climate is not conducive to hibernating. Our falls and winters are SOOO wet, that you are more likely to lose your tortoise to drowning or sickness than not. I strongly recommend against hibernating outdoors. Look at it this way - if you bring your tortoise in, you KNOW it is going to survive the winter. Can you really sit there for almost 6 months and wonder if she is alive under all that snow? No way I could do it, and I won't risk their lives that way.



Well I will deal more with the potential-owner-issue when I return, but I do want to add that I (fortunately and unfortunately) have had a lot of experience with this issue as I've done Boxer-Rescue for years, worked with several different shelters. Also, we both have one of those *invisible* "strays check in here" signs in our yard (ugh..lol) as well as 3 kids who can spot a stray animal a mile away. SO, yep....been there in this dilemma many a time. Sometimes it's a crappy thing to return an animal to an owner who obviously doesn't care, but often times it's simply circumstance or a mistake (latch loose, a "runner", etc) OR the lack of "caring" IS actually a lack of education and provides an opportunity for me to help out an owner who simply needs some tested tips on training, or regular care to bring about what normally could be a positive relationship between owner and pet. I'm always skeptical of course, it's my nature (and a natural result of said experiences), and one can always hope for the best outcome......or do our best to ensure as much if confronted with a less-than-stellar-situation. I will attempt to do the same here. IF there is actually an owner, I will make a reasonable effort to locate them. (Reasonable....not obnoxious) If an owner is located and is obviously uninterested in the care of the tortoise, I will do everything in my power to uh...subtly...uh..... encourage a super-positive view of the animals rehoming, via my family. And in the end, it will be what it's meant to be I guess. Hopefully it won't come to that, and either way I will be prepared now with plenty of information to provide to said owner, should that be necessary and warranted (thanks Kristina :) And MAYBE it will all be a moot point anyway, and all I will be stuck mulling over is how to convince hubby to allow me and the kids to build an indoor/outdoor multi-pen-enclosure that will accomodate a tortoise set-up as well as an aquatic turtle setup...lol....I can see a lot of sucking-up on the horizon :p
 

Rayvens3cubs

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Hey folks, I'm back. I have realized (for sure) in this short time that we are NOT prepared to handle the upkeep of Arthur permanently, so I am asking for some advice and help on finding him an awesome home. First of all, is there anyone in, or near Michigan who has room immediately for a male Russian and/or is experienced with rehoming these guys? I don't have the faintest clue where to even begin. (I would be happy to assist with transportation) My husband wants me to just sell him, as we could use the money, but since fate brought him to me in the first place, I feel guilty just putting him up for sale. On top of it, I have no idea what to even look for in a "great tortoise home" since I'm totally new to the whole tort world in the first place. I do NOT want him to just go to the first person willing to pay for him, but I don't have the facilities to keep him indoors completely as the weather begins to cool, here in W.Michigan, so time is of the essence. Would love to have him go directly into a permanent home, so the kids can see how he's doing on occasion, but willing to consider other options. Any suggestions or offers?
 
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