The importance of DEEP shade

Michael Bird

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I was about to post my own thread, but I just found this one on the same subject so I hope you don't mind me reviving a year old thread...

I dug a 30 inch (approximately) long tunnel, lined on the top and sides with stone and bricks, for my Hermann's Tortoise. The tunnel goes into a steep slope in the ground so while the floor of the tunnel is only slightly angled down, the back end of the tunnel is about 18 inches below ground level.

The other day while doing some work on the enclosure, I decided to measure the temperature and humidity at Noon using my ThermPro digital thermometer/hygrometer.

The ambient air temperature during these tests (as reported by the local weather service) was 82 degrees Fahrenheit and about 15% humidity. It had not rained for several days and we live in a semi-desert (northern Utah) so everything was quite dry.

I took measurements directly on the dirt just above the entrance to the cave, just barely inside the cave entrance so it was protected from direct sunlight but not really sheltered any more than that, and at the very back end of the cave. I left it for about a half hour in each location to stabilize the readings.

Temperature of the surface dirt was 128 degrees and humidity was below 10% (the meter doesn't go any lower).
Temperature at the cave entrance was 81 degrees and humidity was 41%.
Temperature at the back of the cave was 72 degrees and humidity was 52%.

I was shocked at how much of a difference there was by simply getting the thermometer out of the direct sunlight and into partial shade. I was also pretty surprised that there wasn't a bigger difference between the front and the back of the cave, but even with only a 2.5 foot tunnel, there definitely was enough of a difference to be measurable, and enough that Hermes sometimes hangs out at the cave entrance, and sometimes wants to go all the way to the very back of the tunnel.

We really need to make sure the enclosure has plenty of options so our tortoises can find and choose exactly what they need!
 
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Rocco's family

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Super helpful! Thank you!!
Ok, folks, we need to talk about SHADE.



You have probably (hopefully) heard tortoise keepers talking about the fact that tortoises need "DEEP SHADE" to retreat into on a hot Summer day (really any day that has air temps above 80 degrees).

What do we mean by "deep shade?" - this is NOT slapping a board across the tortoise enclosure, nor does a little house do the trick. To create DEEP shade, you have to use the *AND* principal. So, for example, deep shade would be under a tree, AND inside a burrow. Or under an umbrella (or shade cloth) AND under a dense bush. Under a dense bush AND inside a deep burrow. Only there can a significantly cooler environment be achieved that our tortoises need to be comfortable on a hot day (unless you have a sulcata who dug a tunnel that goes 4ft under the soil surface).

Not convinced? If you have a temp gun, I would love it if you would go outside, and measure the ground temperature in a nice shady spot, and then in the sun. There can be a temperature difference of 60 degrees! (e.g. the deep shade under our tree is a nice balmy 80 degrees... the dappled shade under a bush is 90, and the flat rocks in the tortoise enclosure measured 140 degrees F before I hosed them down! In comparison, in the burrow that is behind the dense bush, covered in 10 inches of soil, and has been dug out pretty deep by the tortoises, it is 65-70 degrees. Guess where the tortoises are? Except for the 2 crazy ones who are out first thing in the morning, and don't seem to mind the sun (they are also the lightest colored ones), they are all in the burrows right now.



While we are talking about shade and sun - PLEASE do NOT soak your tortoise in the sunshine when it is warm outside - at least not without supervision! Just this year, I have heard of 2 tortoises that died during their soaks, simply because the owner placed the soaking dish in the sun, and then walked away for 30 minutes. A tortoise in a soaking bin has no place to go. If it is overheating, it can't hide, and sitting in 1 inch of cool water certainly won't protect the top of its shell.

Please be sure to provide DEEP shade for your tortoise when it is outside - that's TWO kinds of shade nested inside each other, as explained above. If your tortoise constantly hides during outdoor time, chances are that you might not be providing enough shade in the enclosure.

Let's prevent unnecessary tortoise death, and make sure that a tortoise doesn't cook in their outdoor enclosure or during their soak!
 

Cathie G

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Yes. I've also worried about that. My backyard can be 130°f when the weather man says it's 90. It's because the back yard is in direct sunlight all day until about 3pm. Since a tortoise usually lives in an underground home and visits and travels when they want... and heads home when they want... maybe it's best to find out what they like best by checking the temps and I have. Especially since underground homes around here are usually 72°f usually. Really though there are some really hot days he loves to be out and about getting a suntan. Other days that are about the same temperature he's hiding out. I just really think the humidity and dew point has a lot to do with their decision to stay in or out also.
 

Sarah2020

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Pleased to say, read and passed 🙌. I soak indoors and provide DEEP shade in the outside enclosure which is used. Nice post.
 

dsglass

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joshua tree
Yes. I've also worried about that. My backyard can be 130°f when the weather man says it's 90. It's because the back yard is in direct sunlight all day until about 3pm. Since a tortoise usually lives in an underground home and visits and travels when they want... and heads home when they want... maybe it's best to find out what they like best by checking the temps and I have. Especially since underground homes around here are usually 72°f usually. Really though there are some really hot days he loves to be out and about getting a suntan. Other days that are about the same temperature he's hiding out. I just really think the humidity and dew point has a lot to do with their decision to stay in or out also.
Same, except that most of my backyard is in full sun *all* *day*, except for very early morning... I built my desert tortoise enclosure in the shade of a couple of huge old mesquites (east end of the enclosure), and a wood fence and a big old creosote provide a bit of shade on the north side - about 1/3 of the enclosure is in deep shade most of the day (it's open to the sun to the west, so the shade zone gets a bit of late-afternoon/early-evening sun; i'm planning on adding a few more shade trees (desert willow, palo verde, and fruitless mulberry) in and around his enclosure in/outside the sunny end, although it may be a season or two before the baby willows and palo verde grow into that role (plan to transplant some inconveniently-located volunteers from the front yard; the mulberries I have my eye on are already pretty tall, although not yet filled out))... I haven't measured, but even on hot sunny days it's pretty comfortable in the shade, and I mist the tree when I water his plants to cool things a bit more. I started his burrow - burying half a wood-bucket planter under several inches of dirt - deep in the shade, and he spent much of his first week here digging back and down a bit, making a little den 2-3ft back from the entrance and maybe a foot or so down; and I've been sticking the cut end of the fruitless mulberry cuttings (his favorite, so far - he likes to eat them right off the branch) in the ground with the leaves kind of framing the entrance, providing a bit of a third layer of shade. (and there are lots of plants - some directly in the ground, some in pots - and things providing little pockets of shade in the sunny part of the garden, as well as a bench (at the edge of the tree-shade zone) and a couple of little plant tables for him to hide under); last week I planted several grape vines, assuming I can keep them alive that long I'm planning to use them to create another little shady spot when they grow up...
 
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Blackdog1714

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Well I seem to have a defective tortoise who doesn't understand how shade or hiding works. I love this little derp! The funny part is the shade is from 1 PM to dark due to how my house is oriented in regards to the sun. IMG_4189.jpeg
 

Cathie G

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Well I seem to have a defective tortoise who doesn't understand how shade or hiding works. I love this little derp! The funny part is the shade is from 1 PM to dark due to how my house is oriented in regards to the sun. View attachment 359204
My shade in the back yard where Sapphire is doesn't really start until around 3:30pm. I use his beach umbrella for some shade in the meantime. That keeps it at a comfortable temperature most of the day. After that He's usually basking around plants or his hide to soak up the last remaining bit of sun . I still have to play hide and seek with the little brat everyday. If he's in his hide I bring him inside immediately..
 

Obbie

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Super helpful! Thank you!!
My shade in the back yard where Sapphire is doesn't really start until around 3:30pm. I use his beach umbrella for some shade in the meantime. That keeps it at a comfortable temperature most of the day. After that He's usually basking around plants or his hide to soak up the last remaining bit of sun . I still have to play hide and seek with the little brat everyday. If he's in his hide I bring him inside immediately..
Mali 🇲🇱 is a fun and healthy Sulcatta. I’ve had her for 5 years, we lived in Minnesota for most of that time. Moved to Tucson last fall, full time. She seems to like it here. She’s come down here every winter with me and my two Jack Russell’s. Now it’s been hot down here. 41+ days of tripl digit heat. 110 has been the average !! Nights aren’t getting below 95. I saw a post about dark shade, I’m just always worried that I’m not giving her everything she needs. I found a plastic dog house. Huge, so she loves to be in it with this heat. I have a couple of spots in the house she can go to. I just throw one of her towels on top of her. She came in the other night, and went out an hour ago. She just wanted to be in. Am I being too hard on her ? Any ideas ?
 

Cathie G

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Mali 🇲🇱 is a fun and healthy Sulcatta. I’ve had her for 5 years, we lived in Minnesota for most of that time. Moved to Tucson last fall, full time. She seems to like it here. She’s come down here every winter with me and my two Jack Russell’s. Now it’s been hot down here. 41+ days of tripl digit heat. 110 has been the average !! Nights aren’t getting below 95. I saw a post about dark shade, I’m just always worried that I’m not giving her everything she needs. I found a plastic dog house. Huge, so she loves to be in it with this heat. I have a couple of spots in the house she can go to. I just throw one of her towels on top of her. She came in the other night, and went out an hour ago. She just wanted to be in. Am I being too hard on her ? Any ideas ?
I don't have a sulcotta so I can't give you a bit of advice on that subject. With my Russian though I'll bring him in early if it gets too hot outside. How I judge that is if he goes in his hide early. However that's a bit easier then moving a sulcatta 😘🤗🐢🥴
 

Tortoise Nana

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Ok, folks, we need to talk about SHADE.



You have probably (hopefully) heard tortoise keepers talking about the fact that tortoises need "DEEP SHADE" to retreat into on a hot Summer day (really any day that has air temps above 80 degrees).

What do we mean by "deep shade?" - this is NOT slapping a board across the tortoise enclosure, nor does a little house do the trick. To create DEEP shade, you have to use the *AND* principal. So, for example, deep shade would be under a tree, AND inside a burrow. Or under an umbrella (or shade cloth) AND under a dense bush. Under a dense bush AND inside a deep burrow. Only there can a significantly cooler environment be achieved that our tortoises need to be comfortable on a hot day (unless you have a sulcata who dug a tunnel that goes 4ft under the soil surface).

Not convinced? If you have a temp gun, I would love it if you would go outside, and measure the ground temperature in a nice shady spot, and then in the sun. There can be a temperature difference of 60 degrees! (e.g. the deep shade under our tree is a nice balmy 80 degrees... the dappled shade under a bush is 90, and the flat rocks in the tortoise enclosure measured 140 degrees F before I hosed them down! In comparison, in the burrow that is behind the dense bush, covered in 10 inches of soil, and has been dug out pretty deep by the tortoises, it is 65-70 degrees. Guess where the tortoises are? Except for the 2 crazy ones who are out first thing in the morning, and don't seem to mind the sun (they are also the lightest colored ones), they are all in the burrows right now.



While we are talking about shade and sun - PLEASE do NOT soak your tortoise in the sunshine when it is warm outside - at least not without supervision! Just this year, I have heard of 2 tortoises that died during their soaks, simply because the owner placed the soaking dish in the sun, and then walked away for 30 minutes. A tortoise in a soaking bin has no place to go. If it is overheating, it can't hide, and sitting in 1 inch of cool water certainly won't protect the top of its shell.

Please be sure to provide DEEP shade for your tortoise when it is outside - that's TWO kinds of shade nested inside each other, as explained above. If your tortoise constantly hides during outdoor time, chances are that you might not be providing enough shade in the enclosure.

Let's prevent unnecessary tortoise death, and make sure that a tortoise doesn't cook in their outdoor enclosure or during their soak!
 

Jentortmom

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Ok, folks, we need to talk about SHADE.



You have probably (hopefully) heard tortoise keepers talking about the fact that tortoises need "DEEP SHADE" to retreat into on a hot Summer day (really any day that has air temps above 80 degrees).

What do we mean by "deep shade?" - this is NOT slapping a board across the tortoise enclosure, nor does a little house do the trick. To create DEEP shade, you have to use the *AND* principal. So, for example, deep shade would be under a tree, AND inside a burrow. Or under an umbrella (or shade cloth) AND under a dense bush. Under a dense bush AND inside a deep burrow. Only there can a significantly cooler environment be achieved that our tortoises need to be comfortable on a hot day (unless you have a sulcata who dug a tunnel that goes 4ft under the soil surface).

Not convinced? If you have a temp gun, I would love it if you would go outside, and measure the ground temperature in a nice shady spot, and then in the sun. There can be a temperature difference of 60 degrees! (e.g. the deep shade under our tree is a nice balmy 80 degrees... the dappled shade under a bush is 90, and the flat rocks in the tortoise enclosure measured 140 degrees F before I hosed them down! In comparison, in the burrow that is behind the dense bush, covered in 10 inches of soil, and has been dug out pretty deep by the tortoises, it is 65-70 degrees. Guess where the tortoises are? Except for the 2 crazy ones who are out first thing in the morning, and don't seem to mind the sun (they are also the lightest colored ones), they are all in the burrows right now.



While we are talking about shade and sun - PLEASE do NOT soak your tortoise in the sunshine when it is warm outside - at least not without supervision! Just this year, I have heard of 2 tortoises that died during their soaks, simply because the owner placed the soaking dish in the sun, and then walked away for 30 minutes. A tortoise in a soaking bin has no place to go. If it is overheating, it can't hide, and sitting in 1 inch of cool water certainly won't protect the top of its shell.

Please be sure to provide DEEP shade for your tortoise when it is outside - that's TWO kinds of shade nested inside each other, as explained above. If your tortoise constantly hides during outdoor time, chances are that you might not be providing enough shade in the enclosure.

Let's prevent unnecessary tortoise death, and make sure that a tortoise doesn't cook in their outdoor enclosure or during their soak!
Well said!!
 

Jess H

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Joined
Aug 11, 2023
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7
Location (City and/or State)
Suffolk UK
Ok, folks, we need to talk about SHADE.



You have probably (hopefully) heard tortoise keepers talking about the fact that tortoises need "DEEP SHADE" to retreat into on a hot Summer day (really any day that has air temps above 80 degrees).

What do we mean by "deep shade?" - this is NOT slapping a board across the tortoise enclosure, nor does a little house do the trick. To create DEEP shade, you have to use the *AND* principal. So, for example, deep shade would be under a tree, AND inside a burrow. Or under an umbrella (or shade cloth) AND under a dense bush. Under a dense bush AND inside a deep burrow. Only there can a significantly cooler environment be achieved that our tortoises need to be comfortable on a hot day (unless you have a sulcata who dug a tunnel that goes 4ft under the soil surface).

Not convinced? If you have a temp gun, I would love it if you would go outside, and measure the ground temperature in a nice shady spot, and then in the sun. There can be a temperature difference of 60 degrees! (e.g. the deep shade under our tree is a nice balmy 80 degrees... the dappled shade under a bush is 90, and the flat rocks in the tortoise enclosure measured 140 degrees F before I hosed them down! In comparison, in the burrow that is behind the dense bush, covered in 10 inches of soil, and has been dug out pretty deep by the tortoises, it is 65-70 degrees. Guess where the tortoises are? Except for the 2 crazy ones who are out first thing in the morning, and don't seem to mind the sun (they are also the lightest colored ones), they are all in the burrows right now.



While we are talking about shade and sun - PLEASE do NOT soak your tortoise in the sunshine when it is warm outside - at least not without supervision! Just this year, I have heard of 2 tortoises that died during their soaks, simply because the owner placed the soaking dish in the sun, and then walked away for 30 minutes. A tortoise in a soaking bin has no place to go. If it is overheating, it can't hide, and sitting in 1 inch of cool water certainly won't protect the top of its shell.

Please be sure to provide DEEP shade for your tortoise when it is outside - that's TWO kinds of shade nested inside each other, as explained above. If your tortoise constantly hides during outdoor time, chances are that you might not be providing enough shade in the enclosure.

Let's prevent unnecessary tortoise death, and make sure that a tortoise doesn't cook in their outdoor enclosure or during their soak!
I was saddened to read of two tortoises dying. I leave a large water dish out all the time, if he wants to climb in for a soak he does, then climbs out when he's had enough. I will make sure it's in a dappled shade area this summer though.
 

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