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Russian Tortoise in Winter Take II

klawran1

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Okay so I haven't been active in a couple of years since I built my Leopard's heated night box (Thank you, Tom!!!!) and my Russian's partially underground box (Thank you yet again, Tom!)

Anyway, this will be my second year letting my tortoise hibernate on his own outside. The box I built last year was a success, but it wasn't very well made. I'd like to make another hideout for him for this winter before it begins getting cold. I live in north Georgia, if it helps.

Few concerns. First, ants!! It's hot out and they're thriving just fine. I can't get rid of them and they love the shelter his box provides. Anyone have suggestions?

Second, water. Even with precautions being taken, there is still much more water in his burrow than I'm comfortable with, especially when it's time ti hibernate and it's cold outside. It tends to rain a good bit here so that's a concern. Summers are a nightmare trying to make sure his burrow doesn't flood. Suggestions?

Third, I can either build a deep burrow and basically lose access to him, or I can build one that isn't as deep but has a lid that I can remove to check on him or remove him if the temperature drops too low. The second option is what I did last season, but I'm not sure I want to go that route again. Thoughts?

Basically, who hibernates outdoors and what does your set up look like? All suggestions, plans, and photos welcome. My Russian is 10 years old, healthy and a good eater. No issues here on his end, last year was just the first I had a house of my own and a yard for him to have a safe, enclosed pen. This whole 'living outside year round' is still new to us both. Thank you for any and all input.
 

wellington

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I don't hibernate mine. However, I have always read too hibernate under controlled conditions. In a box or something in the frig, a garage, a cold closet, etc. Not to just let them hibernate outside on their own.
@Tom
 

T Smart

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I agree with @wellington . There's nothing wrong with hibernating tortoises indoors. It's definitely much safer for the tortoise, and less stressful for the owner.

(I've never hibernated my tortoise before. It's just what I've read.)

Best of luck!
 

Tom

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Okay so I haven't been active in a couple of years since I built my Leopard's heated night box (Thank you, Tom!!!!) and my Russian's partially underground box (Thank you yet again, Tom!)

Anyway, this will be my second year letting my tortoise hibernate on his own outside. The box I built last year was a success, but it wasn't very well made. I'd like to make another hideout for him for this winter before it begins getting cold. I live in north Georgia, if it helps.

Few concerns. First, ants!! It's hot out and they're thriving just fine. I can't get rid of them and they love the shelter his box provides. Anyone have suggestions?

Second, water. Even with precautions being taken, there is still much more water in his burrow than I'm comfortable with, especially when it's time ti hibernate and it's cold outside. It tends to rain a good bit here so that's a concern. Summers are a nightmare trying to make sure his burrow doesn't flood. Suggestions?

Third, I can either build a deep burrow and basically lose access to him, or I can build one that isn't as deep but has a lid that I can remove to check on him or remove him if the temperature drops too low. The second option is what I did last season, but I'm not sure I want to go that route again. Thoughts?

Basically, who hibernates outdoors and what does your set up look like? All suggestions, plans, and photos welcome. My Russian is 10 years old, healthy and a good eater. No issues here on his end, last year was just the first I had a house of my own and a yard for him to have a safe, enclosed pen. This whole 'living outside year round' is still new to us both. Thank you for any and all input.
Opinions on this matter run the full spectrum. Here is mine:
No tortoise should ever be hibernated outside. It ends in disaster time after time. This is part of why so many people think hibernation is bad, or dangerous, or shouldn't be done until a certain age. It is dangerous, potentially bad, and a huge risk for little ones when it is done outdoors subject to the cruel whims of mother nature. Done indoors, under the correct controlled conditions, it is no more risky or dangerous than not hibernating them at all.

I typed this up a couple few years ago on the subject. Best to read the whole thread for context. The good part is toward the end of page one: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/looking-for-an-rt-hibernation-mentor.128790/

Read this, and then let's have a discussion about the subject. I'm curious about what questions and opinions you might have after reading all of that.
 

RosemaryDW

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I know your question is specific to outdoor enclosures but I wouldn’t intentionally let a dry climate tortoise hibernate outdoors in a damp one.

We fridge hibernate; the first winter we did so, her favorite spot for digging flooded at least twice.

Is he used to staying up indoors? If you already have the space and setup, I’d consider doing it again.
 

klawran1

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I know your question is specific to outdoor enclosures but I wouldn’t intentionally let a dry climate tortoise hibernate outdoors in a damp one.

We fridge hibernate; the first winter we did so, her favorite spot for digging flooded at least twice.

Is he used to staying up indoors? If you already have the space and setup, I’d consider doing it again.
He hasn't been indoors in two years. He hibernated outside last year. I was going to do it better this year but.. Seems that's frowned upon.

I don't have an enclosure for my Russian since moving 2 years ago. No room to put him in this house. That's why I did the natural outdoor thing. I figured in Russia the climate is much worse and he would be fine here in Georgia. I fattened him up before hand. Soaked until all the poop was out as discussed with my vet and my own research to keep food from rotting on their stomachs, and he went underground to the insulated box I built. Came back up in February. I'll figure something out if I have to take up my second bathroom and let him chill in the tub this winter. Fridge hibernating was my first choice, but lots of horror stories there just like with other methods.

@Tom I haven't had a chance to read the link you posted yet, but I'm going to. Thank you for the advice.
 

RosemaryDW

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He hasn't been indoors in two years. He hibernated outside last year. I was going to do it better this year but.. Seems that's frowned upon.

That's why I did the natural outdoor thing. I figured in Russia the climate is much worse and he would be fine here in Georgia.
Hibernating outside is fine in some areas. The climate our tortoises are from is definitely harsh but it’s dry dry dry. Dry in the winter, dry in the summer. Russians aren’t built to survive the damp, as least not on a long-term basis. I live in Southern California, near the beach. Not nearly as humid as Georgia but not ideal for my Russian.

You’re right, there are people who have had bad fridge hibernations as well. There is no 100% right or wrong way. Hopefully we can give you enough feedback to let you be comfortable with your approach, whatever you choose.



.
 

klawran1

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Okay, so I read over the post you suggested @Tom . I'm looking into letting him go into hibernation on his own again (the sun and temperature naturally coaxing him to sleep) and keeping him in a box with confetti shredding or something in my garage for the winter once he's down. Much colder in there than inside, but stable temperature wise and not as unpredictable as outside. I'm not sure it gets in the 40s though, so something I need to start monitoring. If he doesn't sleep due to warmth, I'll make him a makeshift indoor enclosure and keep him up. I'm not sure what else to do. I don't want him dead. That's about the best I can come up with at this point.
 

Tom

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Okay, so I read over the post you suggested @Tom . I'm looking into letting him go into hibernation on his own again (the sun and temperature naturally coaxing him to sleep) and keeping him in a box with confetti shredding or something in my garage for the winter once he's down. Much colder in there than inside, but stable temperature wise and not as unpredictable as outside. I'm not sure it gets in the 40s though, so something I need to start monitoring. If he doesn't sleep due to warmth, I'll make him a makeshift indoor enclosure and keep him up. I'm not sure what else to do. I don't want him dead. That's about the best I can come up with at this point.
How about a little mini fridge in the garage? Or just a regular fridge? Some people already have a fridge in their garage and all you need is a little tupperware container and a couple of decent thermometers. Russians really do need it cold and consistently cold to hibernate properly. 39-40 degrees. At 50+ they remain quite active and will burn through their energy reserves too quickly.
 

Tom

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Hibernating outside is fine in some areas.
I disagree with this statement. I don't think it is fine anywhere. I've seen example after example of unexpected weather extremes, rodents, ants and so many other things claim the lives of hibernating tortoises outdoors. Survivable some of the time in some areas? Sure. But I wouldn't call it safe, fine or an acceptable risk anywhere on the planet.

I've never seen anyone have a problem with fridge hibernation unless the tortoise was sick going in, or there was some sort of gross human error.
 

klawran1

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I can't. At least not this year. I lost my job in March. Living on savings right now until one of these interviews pans out. Looks like he's staying awake on news paoers this year. I do appreciate all the advice and warnings. Thanks, everyone.
 

Tom

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I can't. At least not this year. I lost my job in March. Living on savings right now until one of these interviews pans out. Looks like he's staying awake on news paoers this year. I do appreciate all the advice and warnings. Thanks, everyone.
Nothing wrong with keeping them up. It does no harm. Hibernation is not "necessary".

Why newspaper? Why not some good substrate like fine grade orchid bark. Its not good for tortoise feet and legs to be on slippery newspaper.
 

klawran1

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Nothing wrong with keeping them up. It does no harm. Hibernation is not "necessary".

Why newspaper? Why not some good substrate like fine grade orchid bark. Its not good for tortoise feet and legs to be on slippery newspaper.
Only said newspaper/paper towels because I literally have someone paying for my groceries to make sure myself and animals eat. An $8000 surgery for my dog (When I had a job) wiped out my savings, then lost my job a few months later. It hurt financially pretty badly.

Thanks for the well wishes @RosemaryDW . Basically I had a job I hated, left it for higher pay and what I thought was a better fit. I was told after three weeks that I wasn't a good fit and they let me go. I've been unemployed since March. Interviews here and there, but job market isn't great in my area. I have three positions I'm waiting to hear back from so I'm truly hoping I get an offer next week!
 
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