- Jun 26, 2016
I am in Chicago. just as cold. I have 3 Leopards. I will turn a bedroom into an area for them during winter, or maybe the basement.
I'd like to share my experience but ill preface it with that I'm not trying to scare you. I've had a rescue sulcatta for 7 years now. His beloved to me and here in Ohio, housing him in the winter is a real *****. The 1st year I had him, I kept him inside that Winter. It's going to be similar to the Wisconsin Winter you can expect. He did very well inside, mostly sleeping in a dog basket over the heating register and having an overhead heat lamp. Even with those 2 items the over all for temperature was cold enough where he didn't really move around a lot. He would pretty much make his way to get his food and sometimes park himself in the dark corner under the stove but all in all it was OK that Winter. There were some definite giant piles of poo that happened maybe every week to every other week in frequency and with that cold floor, his body registered that he did not need to keep his water so boom a ton of urate would be released. Like someone dumped a bucket of water over. I tried everything I could think of to warm up the floor area around his body to not have the urate release dilemna. But nothing worked. What was worse, is that because he liked to hang out over the heating vents, when his your urate would release, it would pour down the heat vent.
I ended up having to duck tape heavy duty plastic and a garbage bag over the heating vent to prevent this from happening. So my next course of action was to set up my garage as a "barn" for him to have his winters there. This can work in milder weather but it is extremely dangerous in the dead of Winter. I've had 2 experience that completely scared me and 1 where i almost lost him. Within my garage I built a small 4 by 4 pin with him that had several high powered heating elements as well as hard heating pads used for rabbits. I had both sand and hay over these, with the sand conducting the heat and holding it for warmth. Berry managed to find the one in between spot that was darkest in this small pen and he literally nearly froze to death. Mind you he was 2 feet then and the pen was small only to hold heat in for him in deep winter. He doesn't like to sleep in the lights that the heating lamps emit light, even the dark ones will put off some light. And the ones that are true full on black dont emit as well. you have to have that type of lamp so close to be able to radiate the heat that you risk the shell burning. So to avoid the light so he could sleep he burrowed into one spot that had the least amount of light and he became too cold to move. When I found him the next day he literally looked like he was not alive. When I picked him up all of his limbs as well as his head were completely limp. I had to bring him out of hibernation gradually to keep him alive. I was a crying slobbering mess. Yes, I know it gets cold in the desert where they live in Africa but it does not get the levels of cold that Ohio and Wisconsin experience and they just aren't capable of going into that kind of hibernation and coming out of it unscathed. For this reason, I now house Berry inside all Winter. I basically set up a room for him and he has a heat lamp a register a dog bedd and can roam around as he wishes. This is the only suitable and safe choice that I feel comfortable with. I am going to look into wintering quarters for him and I might be able to work with a sanctuary to drive him there into a more Southern state and then pick him up in the Spring. He is outside in warmer weather and we are able to go from about may to late October early November depending on if we get an Indian summer with him in the large yard and having a large outer Box with heating elements in it. Make sure for any outdoor Box you have that your heating elements are absolutely 100% foolproof secured high enough not to burn the shell. I have had an incident with Barry where our lights were very secured in terms of being wrapped around and around and around a ceiling rod but somehow slack allowed that light to drop down and barry, asleep underneath it ended up giving a burn on the top of his shell. His outdoor enclosure is dirt on the bottom because he really enjoys to dig and his shell got a small burn on it and what he did was dig and fling the dirt on top of his shell which covered it up. Even with the best of care, sometimes accidents and events can happen and you learn the hard way what you have to do to increase safety. There are other issues to consider without or housing as well, such as a breaker tripping and your lights going off and then your tortoise dies And the really scary one, is if the tortoise, who is always the Tory us for plowing into any kind of furniture and getting tangled up in any kind of cord, somehow gets tangled up in that heating lamp cord and pulls that light down and you have hay in your enclosure it is a instant raging fire. So sorry if my story has not been what you wanted to hear. I just would hate for anyone else to experience what i have.
Perhaps you didnt read or understand my post. Of course they dont hibrrnate but if they get TOO cold they are forced into a hibernation state that can kill them. Iguanas also can withstand cold but not too cold. If they get too cold they physically cannot move--even if a heat source is less than a foot away. They first slip into a hibernation state. If only a short time they can come out of it. If too long they can die. They can also come out of it but have organ and nerve damage and sucumb to those injuries in the long run. Ive worked with the zoo in its aquarium and amphibian center, the virgin islands national park, our states wildlife center and our states educator on sulcattas. We rescued 60 from a hoarder and this is the one i homed out of that rescue. No one says a tortoise should hibernate. The point of my post is sharing my personal experience of the challenges of deep winter freeze for tortoises kept outside. Those challenges are real and if you havent kept a sulcatta in a sub zero climate that both states get then you wont be with personal experience to share.