Stuck in burrow

Kamisaki2008

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We have two six-year-old sulcatas. They have a summer burrow that is about 6 feet deep and about 11-12 feet long and turns at the end into a cavern they created. I have a heated insulated house for them in the winter above ground that works very well. However when I was at work the other day, the biggest one got out and broke the fence to get to the burrow. He went down there, and won't come out. I got up my courage, and shimmied down the burrow with a flashlight. I saw him at the very end. He looks very cold and isn't moving. I live in eastern Utah, and it's very cold at night. I have a heat lamp I have put down the burrow to try and warm him up and see if he will come out. He is much too heavy, and the burrow is too twisted for me to pull him out. I can barely fit with my arms ahead of me in the tunnel. And I have to have somebody pull me out by my feet. Does anybody have any ideas on what I can do to see if he is still alive other than using the heat lamp and trying to warm him up?
 

Tom

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Fill the burrow with warm water and he will scootch and float to the top. I realize this is hundreds of gallons, so not a fast or easy task.

A heat lamp down there isn't going to do much. The ground is to great of a heat sink to overcome.

I cover the tops of my burrows with plywood to prevent this in fall and winter.
 

Kamisaki2008

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Fill the burrow with warm water and he will scootch and float to the top. I realize this is hundreds of gallons, so not a fast or easy task.

A heat lamp down there isn't going to do much. The ground is to great of a heat sink to overcome.

I cover the tops of my burrows with plywood to prevent this in fall and winter.

If I put warm water down there, I'm concerned that he might drown? If he's so cold that he's not moving, would he warm up fast enough to be able to float out?

The entrance to their burrow is inside of a dog run. It has a latched gate. Apparently he bulldozed against the gate until it finally unlatched and he got through(it's bent at tortoise height). I should have put plywood over the hole also, but they have never been able to unlatch the gate. Even my 80 pound dog has never been able to get through the gate. I'm just sick about this. It has been a very mild winter, so they come out of their heated house during the day, and graze on the lawn. They have always returned to the house at night where the warmth is.
 

Tom

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If I put warm water down there, I'm concerned that he might drown? If he's so cold that he's not moving, would he warm up fast enough to be able to float out?

The entrance to their burrow is inside of a dog run. It has a latched gate. Apparently he bulldozed against the gate until it finally unlatched and he got through(it's bent at tortoise height). I should have put plywood over the hole also, but they have never been able to unlatch the gate. Even my 80 pound dog has never been able to get through the gate. I'm just sick about this. It has been a very mild winter, so they come out of their heated house during the day, and graze on the lawn. They have always returned to the house at night where the warmth is.
I've used this method many times, and none have drowned yet. The warm water should get him active enough and get him moving. A flooding burrow is a matter of life and death for them, and it gets them moving.

The only other way I know of is to bring in a back hoe and start digging. Carefully. The last few feet will have to be dug by hand. Carefully.
 

Kamisaki2008

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How quickly will the cold kill a large sulcata? I estimate it got about 30 degrees down there at night. Any chance he could be in a kind of shut-down phase, or is this wishful thinking?
 

Tom

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How quickly will the cold kill a large sulcata? I estimate it got about 30 degrees down there at night. Any chance he could be in a kind of shut-down phase, or is this wishful thinking?
One cold night can cause a respiratory infection. One below freezing night can kill them.

It is not likely that it was 30 degrees at the bottom of a 11-12 foot long burrow. Ground temps are usually significantly warmer than surface temps in winter, and cooler in summer. That is why the wild desert tortoises burrow.

The U.S. Geological Survey has numbers for ground temps in all areas of the US. Our friend @Markw84 probably has a link handy that could tell you what ground temps in your area are. In my area we are 79-81 in summer and about 50 all winter. And this would only be about 1 meter deep. Even more stable farther down deeper. Mark might have other ideas for getting the tortoise out of there too.
 

Bee62

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Hello, have you managed it to get your tortoise out of the burrow ?
 

Kamisaki2008

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No and he's not moving. I got an extension pole and probed his head and legs. He isn't moving at all and his eyes are closed. It's about 60 degrees down there. I'm afraid he may be gone. I'll try water tomorrow. The heat lamp and dog igloo is keeping it quite warm. I'm so sad.
 

vladimir

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Bee62

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No and he's not moving. I got an extension pole and probed his head and legs. He isn't moving at all and his eyes are closed. It's about 60 degrees down there. I'm afraid he may be gone. I'll try water tomorrow. The heat lamp and dog igloo is keeping it quite warm. I'm so sad.

@Kamisaki2008
Urgent !!!!!!!!
I would try to put an electric space heater as deep as possible into his burrow. You know what I mean, these things that make warm air and blow the air on your tortoise. Maybe that will make him warm and awake.
 

Kamisaki2008

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@Kamisaki2008
Urgent !!!!!!!!
I would try to put an electric space heater as deep as possible into his burrow. You know what I mean, these things that make warm air and blow the air on your tortoise. Maybe that will make him warm and awake.
Thank you. I've had one in there for two days, since he went down. And now the lamp. I really think it's warm enough, so I don't know what's wrong :(
 

Kamisaki2008

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We are trying to dig him out today. I can see his head and his front legs. I can touch them with a very long extension pole, but he's not moving. The main part of his body is around the corner. I am enlarging the tunnel today, and going back down. I can't handle getting stuck again. It was scary. He is over 50 lb, so trying to get him around the corner and then up the tunnel isn't something I'm sure I can do. I really think he's gone, but I still want to get him out. If I can I will put him in a warm bath and see if he'll come around. I wonder if he had an underlying respiratory infection and it overcame him Underground. He didn't have any of the signs of a respiratory infection, but I have heard of that happening. I will keep you updated. We are going digging now. Thank you for all the concern. As well as the help.
 

Kamisaki2008

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A thought just occurred to me. If it's not feasible for you to dig him out, maybe someone at your local fire department has a soft spot for tortoises and could help? I'm reminded of this story

https://www.azcentral.com/story/new...urs-free-stuck-dog-tortoise-tunnel/890551001/


How long has he been down there at this point?

He has been down there for 3 days. The first day I couldn't see him, but then he came forward to where I could see his head and legs the second day. I have some friends from work who have some good tools, and they are going to come help me enlarge the tunnel today
 

Bee62

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He has been down there for 3 days. The first day I couldn't see him, but then he came forward to where I could see his head and legs the second day. I have some friends from work who have some good tools, and they are going to come help me enlarge the tunnel today
My fingers are crossed ! I pray that your big boy is not dead. Torts are very strong.
I hope so much he is still alive.
 
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