To hibernate or not hibernate. That is the question.

amenezes

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I have read a ton of posts here on hibernation and I still can't decide what to do about Usain Bolt's winter time.
Important info.
  • I just got him from a rescue but they've had him for 4 months and said he's been healthy.
  • Bolt is around 20yrs old, so they tell me.
  • Bolt has an outdoor enclosure (a flower bed) that is completely blocked so he can't escape under or over it
  • He has a box where he sleeps at night that I can close
  • We live in SoCal by the beach so we don't get freezing temps even at night.
  • I don't have an indoors enclosure for him but I could buy a small fridge for hibernation if needed.
My questions are:
If I don't hibernate him:
1. Assuming he is outside, if I get a heat lamp setup over his night box controlling so it doesn't get less than 60F at night, would that be enough to keep him awake over the winter? Or would he need daytime lamp too? We get so much sun here I am not sure he'd need a UV lamp but I'm not sure about the daytime temperatures being OK for him in winter.

If I do hibernate him:
1. How do I transition him from being outside to being in the fridge? (keeping in mind I don't have an indoors enclosure)
2. Can this transition be made outside still? I can bring him in the house for the nights in his box.
3. I can buy a mini-fridge and keep him in there but I have never done this and worry I'll kill him accidentally.

I have poured over lots of @Tom 's posts but the older ones are not showing the pictures anymore :-(


@Tom since you know where I live I would love to hear (read) your thoughts on these questions, if possible.
Thank you so much.
 

amenezes

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Nobody? I also thought I could just keep a heat lamp on his outdoor enclosure during the day, and then bring him in at night where it's always over 60F. Thoughts?
 

jsheffield

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Nobody? I also thought I could just keep a heat lamp on his outdoor enclosure during the day, and then bring him in at night where it's always over 60F. Thoughts?
I did a lot of reading and research about my Russians when I added Chili, and then the ladies, to my creep.

I bought a fridge filled it with water bottles to add some temp-steadying thermal mass and ran it for weeks at its lowest setting to make sure that it would work for Chili.

In the end I just added more heat and UV to his enclosure in the winter and decided not to encourage him to brumate... brumation just seemed like more risk with negligible benefit.

I don't know that that's the right answer, it's certainly not the only answer, but it's my answer to living with Russians in a cold climate as regards brumation.

Jamie
 

Tom

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I have read a ton of posts here on hibernation and I still can't decide what to do about Usain Bolt's winter time.
Important info.
  • I just got him from a rescue but they've had him for 4 months and said he's been healthy.
  • Bolt is around 20yrs old, so they tell me.
  • Bolt has an outdoor enclosure (a flower bed) that is completely blocked so he can't escape under or over it
  • He has a box where he sleeps at night that I can close
  • We live in SoCal by the beach so we don't get freezing temps even at night.
  • I don't have an indoors enclosure for him but I could buy a small fridge for hibernation if needed.
My questions are:
If I don't hibernate him:
1. Assuming he is outside, if I get a heat lamp setup over his night box controlling so it doesn't get less than 60F at night, would that be enough to keep him awake over the winter? Or would he need daytime lamp too? We get so much sun here I am not sure he'd need a UV lamp but I'm not sure about the daytime temperatures being OK for him in winter.

If I do hibernate him:
1. How do I transition him from being outside to being in the fridge? (keeping in mind I don't have an indoors enclosure)
2. Can this transition be made outside still? I can bring him in the house for the nights in his box.
3. I can buy a mini-fridge and keep him in there but I have never done this and worry I'll kill him accidentally.

I have poured over lots of @Tom 's posts but the older ones are not showing the pictures anymore :-(


@Tom since you know where I live I would love to hear (read) your thoughts on these questions, if possible.
Thank you so much.
In this care sheet it explains how to keep them in our kind of climate and how to manage the temperatures. You need an outdoor night box that allows you to control the ambient temperature inside. Then you need a basking lamp set on a timer inside it. This extends the season farther into fall, and allows you to get them up earlier in spring. I've never tried to keep them up all winter, but this would probably be the best bet at it.

It is my opinion based on what I've seen all over the world over my lifetime, and my own personal experience, that any reptile that hibernates in the wild should also be hibernated in captivity. There are people who keep them up all winter, and this does not seem to do any harm, but my gut tells me this is not the way to go.

Here is the care sheet again:

Here is the hibernation thread. I break it all down in post #19. The above mentioned night box makes doing this very easy, and makes the transition in and out of hibernation much smoother for the tortoise, and thwarts Mother Nature's cruel attempts to mess with us:
 

amenezes

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I did a lot of reading and research about my Russians when I added Chili, and then the ladies, to my creep.

I bought a fridge filled it with water bottles to add some temp-steadying thermal mass and ran it for weeks at its lowest setting to make sure that it would work for Chili.

In the end I just added more heat and UV to his enclosure in the winter and decided not to encourage him to brumate... brumation just seemed like more risk with negligible benefit.

I don't know that that's the right answer, it's certainly not the only answer, but it's my answer to living with Russians in a cold climate as regards brumation.

Jamie
That is what I am thinking of doing. I would feel so nervous with him being in the fridge and the winters here are kinda mild compared with the rest of the country. I am hoping that by keeping his outdoor enclosure with some heat and bringing him in at night will be good.
 

amenezes

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In this care sheet it explains how to keep them in our kind of climate and how to manage the temperatures. You need an outdoor night box that allows you to control the ambient temperature inside. Then you need a basking lamp set on a timer inside it. This extends the season farther into fall, and allows you to get them up earlier in spring. I've never tried to keep them up all winter, but this would probably be the best bet at it.

It is my opinion based on what I've seen all over the world over my lifetime, and my own personal experience, that any reptile that hibernates in the wild should also be hibernated in captivity. There are people who keep them up all winter, and this does not seem to do any harm, but my gut tells me this is not the way to go.

Here is the care sheet again:

Here is the hibernation thread. I break it all down in post #19. The above mentioned night box makes doing this very easy, and makes the transition in and out of hibernation much smoother for the tortoise, and thwarts Mother Nature's cruel attempts to mess with us:
Thanks, I will review it all again.
 

zolasmum

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Thanks, I will review it all again.
Do you know if he has hibernated in the past? If not, and he is 20, I would have thought it best not to try to change things.
Your plan sounds good,and you can watch his behaviour to see if he is slowing down and stopping eating - in which case you might want to think again. I'm not an expert, but it's what I would do.
Angie
 

wellington

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First off, we always suggest not hibernating them until you have owned him for a full year so you know he is healthy and everything is normal.
After that you can decide what to do. I do not hibernate my Russian and he's never been sick. He will slow down/hide/sleep in the winter time a bit more and eat less, even though he is in a controlled enclosure, but he still always wakes every day, eats and bask then back to hiding away.
 

amenezes

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Do you know if he has hibernated in the past? If not, and he is 20, I would have thought it best not to try to change things.
Your plan sounds good,and you can watch his behaviour to see if he is slowing down and stopping eating - in which case you might want to think again. I'm not an expert, but it's what I would do.
Angie
I dont know if he's hibernated before. Thanks that sounds like a plan.
 

amenezes

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First off, we always suggest not hibernating them until you have owned him for a full year so you know he is healthy and everything is normal.
After that you can decide what to do. I do not hibernate my Russian and he's never been sick. He will slow down/hide/sleep in the winter time a bit more and eat less, even though he is in a controlled enclosure, but he still always wakes every day, eats and bask then back to hiding away.
Thank you!
 

Cathie G

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First off, we always suggest not hibernating them until you have owned him for a full year so you know he is healthy and everything is normal.
After that you can decide what to do. I do not hibernate my Russian and he's never been sick. He will slow down/hide/sleep in the winter time a bit more and eat less, even though he is in a controlled enclosure, but he still always wakes every day, eats and bask then back to hiding away.
Same here with mine. Sapphire will slow down, maybe even sleep a couple of days. I don't let him do that for too long only a day or so. I wake him and put him near his food. He usually starts becoming more active on his own around December or so. He starts begging to go outside around mid February. What's funny is, that is the start of our true spring. But it's underground. I think he can feel it even though he's on a tortoise table. I've never let him totally hibernate. ? He seems to be healthier than when I got him.
 

Tom

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Lots of risk, no real reward in my opinion.
I think a lot of people feel this way, but I don't agree on either count. I don't think there is anymore risk hibernating them than there is keeping them awake all winter, when its done correctly. I think the problems seen with hibernating are because so many people just leave them outside, don't house them correctly, don't prepare them correctly, or don't maintain the correct temps.

Likewise, I do think there is benefit. It allows their bodies to rest in the same way they would in nature. Imagine what would happen to all the trees and plants around you if it stayed summer 12 months a year every year. Tropical plants would thrive, but the temperate plants probably wouldn't fare well.
 

amenezes

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I think a lot of people feel this way, but I don't agree on either count. I don't think there is anymore risk hibernating them than there is keeping them awake all winter, when its done correctly. I think the problems seen with hibernating are because so many people just leave them outside, don't house them correctly, don't prepare them correctly, or don't maintain the correct temps.

Likewise, I do think there is benefit. It allows their bodies to rest in the same way they would in nature. Imagine what would happen to all the trees and plants around you if it stayed summer 12 months a year every year. Tropical plants would thrive, but the temperate plants probably wouldn't fare well.
I agree in general but I think noobies like me feel like we're not experienced enough to do it right righ away and that we have more control if they are awake and we can see they're well. I go back and forth all the time so we'll see what happens in my case but that's what I think. I've only had him a week and half. I'll see what he tells me. Thank you for your expertise, it's appreciated.
 

mark1

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it certainly outwardly appears to have health benefits ..... i'd guess it has to do with running down their reserves , and the vivid color in the spring is probably due to some hibernation related hormonal process .........i would think a solid understanding of how they hibernate naturally would be imperitive before someone would attempt it , especially to do it artificially ....... i've done it in a fridge before , but only on turtles that i had gathered up which had already gone into hibernation naturally ..... i wouldn't have a clue as to how to completely artificially put them into hibernation ....
 

Cathie G

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I'm not an expert and I don't want a single person to believe what I'm saying in this is true and the right way. I've been wondering if deep hibernation is just a defense instinct depending on the climate a tortoise is born into. Or can they semi hibernate? It seems like that's what my little Russian does. He is slower in the fall and the first part of the winter. Then he becomes really active until fall again. If he had been healthy when I got him I may have looked into hibernation but he wasn't. After all these years I don't want to put him in a refrigerator.?
 

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I have never hibernated anything. I just never thought it was necessary...when I was very first getting into tortoises I was told you only need to hibernate them IF you were going to breed them. I never did either...but at turtle and tortoise club meetings there would be so much conversation about the number of animals lost this year in hibernation. Guess it impressed me, not in a good way...I have 3 Russians now but they are new to me so I haven't figured out exactly what to do with them...Frankly I think it is easier to not hibernate
100_0795.JPG
 

Dcatalano

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First off, we always suggest not hibernating them until you have owned him for a full year so you know he is healthy and everything is normal.
After that you can decide what to do. I do not hibernate my Russian and he's never been sick. He will slow down/hide/sleep in the winter time a bit more and eat less, even though he is in a controlled enclosure, but he still always wakes every day, eats and bask then back to hiding away.
This is the same for my Russian. He slows down and doesn't eat as much but hasn't fully hibernated that I know of. He's only lived with me for a year but has been part of our school community for the past 10+ years.
 

wellington

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I'm not an expert and I don't want a single person to believe what I'm saying in this is true and the right way. I've been wondering if deep hibernation is just a defense instinct depending on the climate a tortoise is born into. Or can they semi hibernate? It seems like that's what my little Russian does. He is slower in the fall and the first part of the winter. Then he becomes really active until fall again. If he had been healthy when I got him I may have looked into hibernation but he wasn't. After all these years I don't want to put him in a refrigerator.?
It's a survival thing for them in the wild where temps get cold.
In captivity we can keep temps warm, but they still can slow down, because of their natural instinct of the time of year.
Even fish kept in a controlled fish tank inside a house goes thru different changes depending on outside temps.
I have no idea if they should be hibernate or not. I just haven't and my Russian has never looked any different because of it. Very healthy little fella.
 

Cathie G

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It's a survival thing for them in the wild where temps get cold.
In captivity we can keep temps warm, but they still can slow down, because of their natural instinct of the time of year.
Even fish kept in a controlled fish tank inside a house goes thru different changes depending on outside temps.
I have no idea if they should be hibernate or not. I just haven't and my Russian has never looked any different because of it. Very healthy little fella.
Yes. We have the capabilities to do an almost perfectly controlled environment. Mother Nature doesn't. Even my little Zebra Finches have lived around 12 years instead of their 2 or 3 year life expectancy. They do look like little old grandpas though ?
 
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