Sulcata in Los Angeles Backyard, Opinions Welcome

Joew

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Hello! We are considering getting a baby sulcata to raise with the kids. We live in Los Angeles, CA. I wanted to share a video of my backyard and get opinions if this is a reasonable space for an adult sulcata to live. He would have free reign, it is fenced all around. I was planning on building a shelter in back corner (or elsewhere if needed).

I don't mind the grass getting eaten up or small bushes plowed, but I have heard mixed feedback on how damaging a sulcata can be. Will it destroy my patio and the outside of my house? Do you think this is a reasonable space and environment for a sulcata to live?

THANK you!

Joe

 

Tom

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Looks like enough space for an adult, but you'll probably need to block off the side yards. You'll also have to ID every plant back there and make sure none of them are toxic. You can't trust a hungry tortoise to not eat poisonous plants.

Sulcatas are awesome tortoises, but they really are not the right tortoise for most people. They can be very destructive and they get huge. There are other species that are much more suitable and manageable for a backyard area like yours, but if you really want one and are willing to sacrifice your yard, I think you can make it work.

Be sure to buy from the right source. Very few breeders start babies correctly. We'll be happy to make recommendations if you want.

Also most of the care info you find for these guys is just plain wrong. We've been caring for them incorrectly for decades and much of the tortoise community hasn't kept up. Here is the correct care info:

Questions are welcome!
 

Lokkje

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You have a very pretty backyard. I don’t know how anybody else would feel about it but with younger kids maybe a Russian would be a good choice. I grew up with Sonoran desert tortoises and Tortoises are wonderful pets for kids that are a little bit older.
 

Joew

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Thank you both so much for the feedback! Yes, the other tortoises we are wrestling with are Russians and adopting Desert tortoise, which I think are both well-suited to where we live.

The downside of Russian feels like it is so small id always worry about it, it can't free roam and we occasionally get racoons. So I guess it would always live in a screen-covered enclosure.

The downside to desert is not being able to raise it up, but we very well may go that way.

I think the sulcatas are beautiful and the idea of watching them grow is very appealling, but I am concerned about it eventually destroying my house.

Thank you! Joe
 

Lokkje

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I loved having all of my desert tortoises and they started breeding in our backyard. I still have three of them, a male and two females, and they are delightful pets. I absolutely adore my leopard tortoise but it is a lot more money and a lot more work for me to take care of it then the deserts were not that they could be neglected. Please let us know what you decide and Tom is an excellent reference for all information you might need for any of the tortoises you might choose.
 

LisaLew

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Have you considered a redfoot? They do need a lot of hydration and humidity but are much less destructive. I would think your lovely back porch would be damaged by a sulcata!

I know nothing about sulcata care, but when temps drop in LA a redfoot would need a heated house or enclosure. We have a “toddler” redfoot right now and love her. Redfoots grow to a nice size - well over a foot. I envision an adult redfoot in your amazing back yard!
 

maggie3fan

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Thank you both so much for the feedback! Yes, the other tortoises we are wrestling with are Russians and adopting Desert tortoise, which I think are both well-suited to where we live.

The downside of Russian feels like it is so small id always worry about it, it can't free roam and we occasionally get racoons. So I guess it would always live in a screen-covered enclosure.

The downside to desert is not being able to raise it up, but we very well may go that way.

I think the sulcatas are beautiful and the idea of watching them grow is very appealling, but I am concerned about it eventually destroying my house.

Thank you! Joe
Is that lattice expected to hold an adult Sulcata? No way, Jose. There was a Forum member whose adult male started to dig a burrow and ended up going thru the sheet rock and broke thru the foundation. On the other hand, I have 2 Sulcata, one is lazy, cool, and smooth, while the other has done nothing but wreck his new habitat, pulling the chain link up outa the soil, I couldn't pull it up, he destroyed a hydrangea. Horrible tortoise. Oh and he's only 35 lbs. You should see what he'll do at 100 lbs.
 

jsheffield

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If I lived in CA, and had that yard, I think I'd adopt a desert tortoise, but as has been pointed out, you could go with many different types successfully.

Nice to have options!

Jamie
 

turtlesteve

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Consider a South African leopard.... they are big and majestic like a sulcata, but not nearly as destructive, and a perfect match for your climate. I know Tom is expecting a bunch of babies in a few months and there are other breeders that may have them now.
 

Blackdog1714

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Consider a South African leopard.... they are big and majestic like a sulcata, but not nearly as destructive, and a perfect match for your climate. I know Tom is expecting a bunch of babies in a few months and there are other breeders that may have them now.
My Leopard is a PB not the majestic beauties PP that Tom has but acts along the same lines. He will dig into to his humid hide, but that is it. He is even a moderately personable tortoise. And excellent at training. I know when and what to feed and at his preferred times!
 

Joew

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I had ruled out Redfoot and Leopard because I thought they required a high humidity and it is more arid where I live. But there are sprinklers and always shade in back, ferns grow well there - do you think Redfoot or Leopard would do well here?

My thought behind sulcata was that they are suited for the environment, we could raise it from young and watch it grow, and it seems they have confident personalities. But I am open and mostly looking for a tortoise that would naturally do well in my yard. Since posting this, I am less sure about the sulcata. The desert tortoise looks promising, we just wouldn't get to raise it and we won't know the history of the animal.
 

Tom

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Have you considered a redfoot? They do need a lot of hydration and humidity but are much less destructive. I would think your lovely back porch would be damaged by a sulcata!

I know nothing about sulcata care, but when temps drop in LA a redfoot would need a heated house or enclosure. We have a “toddler” redfoot right now and love her. Redfoots grow to a nice size - well over a foot. I envision an adult redfoot in your amazing back yard!
Wrong species for this climate. Too hot and dry here. Los Angeles is a desert basin.
 

Tom

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Thank you both so much for the feedback! Yes, the other tortoises we are wrestling with are Russians and adopting Desert tortoise, which I think are both well-suited to where we live.

The downside of Russian feels like it is so small id always worry about it, it can't free roam and we occasionally get racoons. So I guess it would always live in a screen-covered enclosure.

The downside to desert is not being able to raise it up, but we very well may go that way.

I think the sulcatas are beautiful and the idea of watching them grow is very appealling, but I am concerned about it eventually destroying my house.

Thank you! Joe
A sulcata isn't likely to damage your house. Unless you let it start digging under the foundation, or it starts excessively rubbing on a section of wall in a high traffic area. Still, it will likely turn that yard into a desert wasteland.

I also think a Russian is too small for that situation, but night predators won't be a problem for any tortoise because you will be putting the tortoise in its own heated shelter, regardless of species.

Lots of baby DTs go up for free adoption every year. I'll have some in a few months. If you want to raise a baby DT, we can make that happen. Your yard looks a little damp and shady for a DT, but I think it could work with the right housing. Read this thread for more info on that. This info would also apply to a Russian:

Here is another way to go about this: If your question had been, "Here is my yard. I'm looking for a large personable tortoise that can live back there as an adult. What species would you recommend?"
If that had been your question, and knowing what I know about all the commonly kept tortoise species, the very first tortoise that pops into my head is the South African leopard tortoise that Steve mentioned. As babies, all tortoises need some humidity. As adults, SA leopards do well in dry or damp climates, as long as temps are monitored and controlled, which leads us back to that heated night box. SA leopards are bold and outgoing, totally unafraid, but they don't dig and they are not so destructive. They are a big tortoise at 35-40 pounds, but not SOOOO big that a single able bodied person can't lift and carry them. My 13 year old daughter can carry them back to their night boxes with some effort, and so can my petite wife. With kids around and with the tortoise living loose in the whole yard, I'd feel more comfortable with a larger tortoise. Not too big, but big enough.

I'm north of you in Santa Clarita. Very hot and dry here, and my SA leopards thrive. Down where you are the temperature extremes are less and your irrigated, shady, heavily planted yard, looks like it would also be a great environment for Manouria. These are the Burmese mountain tortoises. Also a fairly large tortoise, but not too large like a sulcata. I love these tortoises, but don't keep them because its too hot and dry up here, but you might consider them. Our own @Yvonne G keeps and breeds these, and can offer more insight into how suitable they would be for your yard.

Here is one example of a tortoise night box that would suit your purposes perfectly. I include this so you'll have an idea of what you'll need in two or three years, if you raise a baby:

I'm glad we are all able to talk about this BEFORE you buy or get your heart set on one species or another. All this conversation will help you to make the best decision for your own personal preferences and living situation. Please feel free to ask for more info. :)
 

Tom

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But why can't you create a humid house for a Redfoot? We create a ton of humidity for a baby Sulcata, why not use the same humid house for a Redfoot?
Because you can't humidify the great outdoors when its time for them to live outside. Also, they never do well here. I've seen many people try, and it never works. The people themselves profess dissatisfaction at the results.
 

maggie3fan

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@Tom just gave the definitive reply. He's going to have desert tortoise babies soon. If I lived in Calif I sure would be camping on his doorstep. There is no tort who is a great as a California Desert tort, (Gopherus agassizzi), they are intelligent, personable, funny, affectionate and just super tortoises. They are a perfect size. Don't let this chance to get a desert tortoise baby go by. Tom starts his babies perfectly, and if there was a way for me to have one of his Gopherus babies I'd run to his house and get 2 babies
 

LisaLew

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Because you can't humidify the great outdoors when its time for them to live outside. Also, they never do well here. I've seen many people try, and it never works. The people themselves profess dissatisfaction at the results.
It’s great you have this experience to pass on, Tom. Joe - I’m on the edge of my seat to see what you pick .....so please do keep us updated if you have time! 😀
 

Tom

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Tom starts his babies perfectly, and if there was a way for me to have one of his Gopherus babies I'd run to his house and get 2 babies
HA! I wouldn't let you have two unless you were going to house them separately. I'd make you take a trio if you wanted more than one.

Also, just to be clear in case any government agents are reading this thread, I am not breeding DTs. I don't even have any. Some of the people who know me seem to think I have a knack for starting baby tortoises in a healthy way, so they give me their babies from accidental breedings to start and adopt out. Babies are started well and kept hydrated and then I adopt them out to good homes free of any charge. I take no compensation of any kind, other than a "thank you" from the recipients. All recipients are advised to contact CTTC and get their permit ASAP. So please, Johnny Law, don't come knocking at my door. You'll be wasting time for both of us.
 

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