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So. California, came out of hibernation and now a cold snap

Discussion in 'North American Tortoises (genus Gopherus)' started by Kathy V, Mar 19, 2019.

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  1. Kathy V

    Kathy V New Member

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    Those living in Southern California know we've had an unusually cold and rainy winter. This past week spring came, temps soared into the 80s, and my tortoise came out of hibernation. He's been sunning, soaking, and eating. Doing very well. I noticed lizards running around the neighborhood that same week, so it seems all the reptiles emeregd once we got that first day of warm weather and sunshine.

    Now I see we're about to have another cold snap. More rain on the way with daytime temps in the low 60s and nightime in the upper 40s. I'm not sure if I should leave him outside in his shelter (a dogloo) or bring him back into his hibernation area (a large storage room off the house).

    I can't remember ever having weather that went from very cold to very hot to very cold again, with no in-between. Since he's awake and active, I could put him in the storage room without placing him in a box. The area is quite large so he could walk around. I could also bring him inside the house. I haven't done that before, but do have a basement area with laminate floor where he could hang for a few days. Having just woken, I'm concerned that he may be vulnerable to an upperrespiratory infection if left out in the cold damp weather.

    Any advice appreciated. Thanks!
  2. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    You need artificial heat until the warm weather returns. I use heated night boxes for this purpose, but you can also do it inside. You'll need to warm the storage room too as it will be cold down on the floor, even if the air temp is warm at eye level. I'd do a basking area and a Kane heat mat.
  3. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I have a different opinion from Tom's. My tortoises hibernate/brumate outside in a dry, insulated cinder block house. They go through the whole winter in this 'house' which means their bodies are acclimated to being cold. When the weather starts warming up, that is, when the nights are consistently 50F or above, their bodies start to warm up, but they're still acclimated to being cold. Until they can move out into the sun and actually warm up their inner core, they are still acclimated to being cold.

    When mine come out early and we then have another cold snap, I merely put them back into their winter house and leave them alone. If it rains, same thing. PUt them back into their winter house and let them be.

    If you provide heat and get them warmed up, you are 'stuck' with keeping them warm and indoors until it's warm enough for them to go back outside. It's perfectly natural and normal for the weather to be unpredictable in spring. It happens in the desert too. When they wake up too early, they just hunker down and wait for it to get warm.
    Yelloweyed likes this.
  4. Kathy V

    Kathy V New Member

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    Thanks for both of your replies and excellent advice. My guy has been sunning himself for a few days and has eaten, but it's only been a few days. It's cooling down today and he's gone to the back of his dogloo and doesn't appear interested in coming out. He's still moving pretty slowly and far from his summer activity level.

    I could go either way here. I could follow Tom's advice and bring him inside with a heat lamp, or do what Yvonne suggests and put him back in his winter place. The latter would be easier as his hibernation box is still set up.

    The weather over the next two weeks will be quite erratic, with some cold days followed by warm sunny days then back to cold and wet. I've seen SO many lizards running around this last week. I guess they have to return to their safe places like Yvonne said. I do hope they survive. Miss Nature Girl here worries about the poor little guys. I do love mylittle yard lizards.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2019
  5. Millerlite

    Millerlite Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    I live in southern ca and my Russians, Greeks, marginated, and box turtles all came out. It's been warm and cool on and off. Even on a cool day however if the sun is out with it being March the sun is much warmer and they take full advantage. On cool rainy days they bunker down in the dry hides. Only a few more weeks and things will stable. I wouldn't worry too much as long as your tortoise has a dry place to bunker down. On cool days he might just sleep all day. Even on a cool 60 degree day if its sunny they will bask and get pretty warm.
  6. Kathy V

    Kathy V New Member

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    Thanks Millerlite. It poured yesterday so I did put him in a dry place. Looking at the forecast, the weather is really jumping around in temps, so I think I'll do what you've been doing. I'll keep him dry on the rainy days, which shouldn't last much longer, and will let him stay in his outdoor "burrow" (his dogloo) on the other days. When the sun comes out he does come out and bask, like you said. The sun dfinitely feels much warmer this month. Even on days when the outdoor temp was only 60, it felt quite hot in the full sun.
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