Sulcata Brumation ?

Obbie

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I’m hoping someone can tell me about my Sulcatta, Mali ??. I dont know how old she is. I’ve had her for 3 years. I received her from a neighborhood friend.
Her Daughters husband found her in the gas fields in North Dakota.
She is about 55 pounds, 28 ” long and 24 ” wide. My question is she has never bruminated . I go to Arizona from Minnesota in the winter. She really likes that,
is is okay if she?
 

Tom

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I’m hoping someone can tell me about my Sulcatta, Mali ??. I dont know how old she is. I’ve had her for 3 years. I received her from a neighborhood friend.
Her Daughters husband found her in the gas fields in North Dakota.
She is about 55 pounds, 28 ” long and 24 ” wide. My question is she has never bruminated . I go to Arizona from Minnesota in the winter. She really likes that,
is is okay if she?
Sulcata don't brumate. Your tortoise needs a heated night box.
 

Yvonne G

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As long as she's kept warm in Arizona, I see no reason it should bother her. After she gets used to living there she'll settle down and accept it.
 

Ciri

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Can someone point me to information about why a sulcata tortoise cannot hibernate. I know normally people keep them warm for the winter even in Arizona, but I have a new friend here who has two sulcatas and has left them out side in the winter for the last eight years and doesn't seem to feel that it would be harmful. So far it's worked out OK from her point of view. I realize they could die, but can you give me more specific information so that I can help to educate her and hopefully persuade her to do what's best for the tortoises? Any kind of information about their physiology and inability to hibernate, and what it does to their system to be cold when it's not natural in their species' environment would be helpful. They have burrows outside and she thinks that's all they need. Thanks.
 

Jan A

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Can someone point me to information about why a sulcata tortoise cannot hibernate. I know normally people keep them warm for the winter even in Arizona, but I have a new friend here who has two sulcatas and has left them out side in the winter for the last eight years and doesn't seem to feel that it would be harmful. So far it's worked out OK from her point of view. I realize they could die, but can you give me more specific information so that I can help to educate her and hopefully persuade her to do what's best for the tortoises? Any kind of information about their physiology and inability to hibernate, and what it does to their system to be cold when it's not natural in their species' environment would be helpful. They have burrows outside and she thinks that's all they need. Thanks.
It's really pretty simple. Torts cannot generate their own internal heat like mammals can. Sulcatas come from high temp climates. Temps below 60 degrees F basically causes their systems to shut down. Portions of California nights can drop below 50. Burrow temps also drop. Unless the tort can rewarm with temps upwards of 80 & warm sunlight the next day or in a couple of days, they often don't survive. Sulcatas do not brumate. They need water & food year-round. If she's had sulcatas in burrows during the winter & not lost one, she's been very lucky.

@Tom explains this so much better.
 

Tom

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It's really pretty simple. Torts cannot generate their own internal heat like mammals can. Sulcatas come from high temp climates. Temps below 60 degrees F basically causes their systems to shut down. Portions of California nights can drop below 50. Burrow temps also drop. Unless the tort can rewarm with temps upwards of 80 & warm sunlight the next day or in a couple of days, they often don't survive. Sulcatas do not brumate. They need water & food year-round. If she's had sulcatas in burrows during the winter & not lost one, she's been very lucky.

@Tom explains this so much better.
I think you did a fine job.

Ground temps where sulcatas come from range from 80-85. Ground temps where I am in Socal range from 50 in winter to 79 in summer and are very consistent both day to day and annually. I'd have to look it up but ground temps in Tuscon are probably similar to mine, within a few degrees. This is much too cold for sulcatas. Many of them die because people mistakenly think they hibernate. They don't. Some of them somehow survive cold temps over the winter months, but it is not good for them.
 

Ciri

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Thanks Jan. I'm sure it's correct that they cannot hibernate, unfortunately this person has heard this before and was not persuaded. I think only scientific information could change her mind. Does anybody have any specific scientific information they can site? Studies?
 

Emmawilly

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Thanks Jan. I'm sure it's correct that they cannot hibernate, unfortunately this person has heard this before and was not persuaded. I think only scientific information could change her mind. Does anybody have any specific scientific information they can site? Studies?
Sadly, it's probable that your friend may have to experience losing one of her Sully's to be persuaded. They're so resilient that they can survive inhumane conditions quite well, until they don't. Would she be offended if you sent her a link to this site so she can see the various threads for herself?
 

Ciri

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Probably. I think what she needs is clear Scientific information.
 

Maggie3fan

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Probably. I think what she needs is clear Scientific information.
I'm pretty simpleminded so...is the tort in question leaving Minnesota in winter for a winter in Tucson? And is your new friend and her 2 tortoises are in Arizona? Sorry...I don't understand...
 

Ciri

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I'm pretty simpleminded so...is the tort in question leaving Minnesota in winter for a winter in Tucson? And is your new friend and her 2 tortoises are in Arizona? Sorry...I don't understand...
I was talking about different tortoises than that one.
 

Jan A

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Thanks Jan. I'm sure it's correct that they cannot hibernate, unfortunately this person has heard this before and was not persuadaed. I think only scientific information could change her mind. Does anybody have any specific scientific information they can site? Studies?
There are people on this forum who have owned sulcatas for decades, including Tom. I believe NOT ONE OF THEM has a sulcata who brumates. I don't think there's scientific authority for brumating sulcatas, but anything's possible on Google.

If there is ANYONE on the forum who has a sulcata who brumates over winter months, can you please give a shout out?
 

Tom

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Probably. I think what she needs is clear Scientific information.
There isn't any. There is no study describing what happens when a tropical reptile is allowed to get cold in a temperate winter. Its just obvious. It would be like keeping a polar bear outside in Tuscon in summer. Or putting a tropical fish from the amazon in a frozen pond. Its the wrong temperature plain and simple.

The only scientific info to be found is comparing the ground temp in the Sahel to the ground temps in Tucson.

Your friend will be one of those people all upset about their dead tortoise standing there saying, "I don't understand... I housed him this way for years... he was always fine..."

Here's another analogy: If you take 100 humans in shorts and a t-shirt and drop them in Alaska mid winter out in the middle of no where, someone will be the first to die, and someone will be the last of the bunch to die, but they are all in the wrong conditions and its not good. Now give each of them a heated shelter and their survival chances go way up.
 

Markw84

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One of the biggest differences with tortoises that have evolved in climates that are warmer year-round is that they never have developed the ability to react to changing season and stop eating in preparation for a long period of no metabolic activity. As a result, a sulcata will eat whenever active enough. Food is constantly in their gut. Gut transit times for a sulcata range from 7-10 days from the time they eat to the time it is passed as feces. This allows for the high fiber and hard-to-digest food items to have the maximum time for nutrient digestion and absorption. When a sulcata is allowed to cool at night, some of the microbiome in the gut starts to die off. If they cannot heat up to proper metabolic temperatures that die-off of beneficial gut bacteria becomes dramatic. Food in the gut cannot be broken down and digested and can start to rot and even ferment. This will eventually lead to enteritis and kill the tortoise if allowed to continue over a long period of time.

Tortoises from temperate areas, like our desert tortoise, have evolved the pattern of sensing the changing season and lower levels of sunshine intensity and stop having interest in eating. So when weather continues to cool and the go into brumation there is no food in their gut. With temperatures too cold for metabolism (under 75°) and a different profile of microbiome, there is no food in the gut to rot and ferment. Tortoise from the tropics never have evolved this activity profile and have different microbiome profiles

Sulcatas are one of the most disease resistant animals that exist. It takes a lot to kill one. They can survive very inhospitable conditions. But it is not good for them and takes it toll. Sooner or later those sulcatas will not make it through an Arizona winter. A warmer spell triggering a lot of eating, followed by a cold spell with microbiome die-off, and your fried will find a dead sulcata.
 

Tom

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I wonder how deep the tunnels are where these Sulcatas are “brumating” in Arizona?
I know that this can vary a lot and it also depends on soil composition, but I've been down AZ burrows and they were only 6-10 feet deep. Mine here in SoCal are usually 12-15 feet deep with a length of about 20-25 feet. I don't know why mine go deeper. It might be the absence of that AZ caliche soil.
 

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