Tom's Brumation Thread

kingsley

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Hi all, i keep many a species that require proper brumation. Over the past decades I have kept species of Chelonia warmer than their wild range ( i live in the Phoenix area) this resulted with fertility issues . In my opinion it is extremely important to get a good understanding as to the wild annual weather ranges of each species and do your best to duplicate it . Many of you have chimed in with different methods and that’s all good. It is vital from a reproductive standpoint for the animals to cycle. For years i had issues with none viable ova with Radiata , and i discussed it with Colette Adams of Gladys aPorter Zoo, and her advice was to lower the thermostats Down to 50F in the overnight boxes, and the following year the fertility was up by 40%. The point i am trying to get at is,if your goal is to reproduce/ propagate a species it is important to cycle them with with proper brumation for optimal fertility.
 

Tom

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For years i had issues with none viable ova with Radiata , and i discussed it with Colette Adams of Gladys aPorter Zoo, and her advice was to lower the thermostats Down to 50F in the overnight boxes, and the following year the fertility was up by 40%.
Thank you for this post Kingsley!

About the radiata: 50 degrees in the night box when and for how long? What are the day time highs with these night time lows? Do they stop eating during this period? Should a person stop feeding them during and before this time period?

We get daytime highs in the 50s during cold spells, and daytime highs in the 60s for the majority of winter. Most days are sunny, but it often overcast during the cold rainy spells. We also get winter warm spells with daytime highs around 75-80, and sometimes up to 90. I think our climates are very similar. You get hotter a little sooner in June, and are consistently about 10 degrees hotter each day in summer, but our winter weather and temps are very similar. Please advise. :)
 

kingsley

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hi Tom, our nights are in the high 30-40 F these days and i notice the females out and about during the day time, with minimal grazing. The males go down hard for the most part and remain in the night boxes. Interestingly the daytime temps are upwards of 55 degrees in the boxes . Two males haven’t moved since thanksgiving weekend.
 

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hi Tom, our nights are in the high 30-40 F these days and i notice the females out and about during the day time, with minimal grazing. The males go down hard for the most part and remain in the night boxes. Interestingly the daytime temps are upwards of 55 degrees in the boxes . Two males haven’t moved since thanksgiving weekend.
I'm going to be calling you later today my friend. 😁
 

kingsley

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forgot to mention , as far as a timeline they are usually slowing down by Thanksgiving , and get active around march(Easter). I use these to holidays as my timeline .
 

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But, but, but ...

Where i live (north-central Arkansas where the 3-toed boxies roam) in winter the temps vary quite a lot. We may have days in the 70s for periods, on rare occasions it might even hit 80. We usually have cold spells where it is sub-freezing for weeks. This morning it was below 0, but this is rare. So what do the wild boxies do? Presumably they eat little or nothing (for one thing there will be virtually nothing edible around) all winter, and are in and out of brumation. I posted recently
about seeing a boxie on the road Nov 29 after we had had about 10 nights of hard freezing in a row, followed by warming. Although this was a most unusual sighting, i presume it was not the only boxie up and about.

Probably this weather fluctuation takes a toll on babies, but can it be that hard on more mature specimens?
 

Tom

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But, but, but ...

Where i live (north-central Arkansas where the 3-toed boxies roam) in winter the temps vary quite a lot. We may have days in the 70s for periods, on rare occasions it might even hit 80. We usually have cold spells where it is sub-freezing for weeks. This morning it was below 0, but this is rare. So what do the wild boxies do? Presumably they eat little or nothing (for one thing there will be virtually nothing edible around) all winter, and are in and out of brumation. I posted recently
about seeing a boxie on the road Nov 29 after we had had about 10 nights of hard freezing in a row, followed by warming. Although this was a most unusual sighting, i presume it was not the only boxie up and about.

Probably this weather fluctuation takes a toll on babies, but can it be that hard on more mature specimens?
This would fall directly under the heading: Your enclosure is NOT the wild.
 

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But, but, but ...

Where i live (north-central Arkansas where the 3-toed boxies roam) in winter the temps vary quite a lot. We may have days in the 70s for periods, on rare occasions it might even hit 80. We usually have cold spells where it is sub-freezing for weeks. This morning it was below 0, but this is rare. So what do the wild boxies do? Presumably they eat little or nothing (for one thing there will be virtually nothing edible around) all winter, and are in and out of brumation. I posted recently
about seeing a boxie on the road Nov 29 after we had had about 10 nights of hard freezing in a row, followed by warming. Although this was a most unusual sighting, i presume it was not the only boxie up and about.

Probably this weather fluctuation takes a toll on babies, but can it be that hard on more mature specimens?
my opinion is, "in and out" is probably why it's brumation and not hibernation ............ we also had that hard freeze mid november , and then the abnormally warm warm up , i found two baby box turtles and one adult that came out during that warm up ...... my opinion is they were hibernating in less stable conditions than the ones that didn't come out , not as deep ..... their hibernacula was more affected by the air temps ....... i think as long as they find a suitable spot before the next freeze they should be fine , if they don't , they won't ........ i'd think the babies have a greater chance of not finding a suitable spot ....

i've read it's not uncommon for desert or gopher tortoises to exit their burrows during warm spells in the winter to sun ........ if you have ever followed the temp fluctuations of a river , and have watched river hibernating species brumate , they are active at every possible chance they get , i've seen them basking in every month of the year ...... i'd guess getting their body temps up a few times a winter may be beneficial to them , possibly helps their immune system operate to some degree ...
 

Loohan

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This would fall directly under the heading: Your enclosure is NOT the wild.

Yes, unless one had an elaborate enclosure that had a 40 F section on one end, and 70 on the other, they do not have much range of CHOICE of what temps to gravitate to.

So the main danger is that they will lose too much weight because they are not eating, yet not brumating either? What if one were to monitor them, and if they got too light, bring up the temps for the rest of the winter?
 

mark1

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if you give a healthy turtle or tortoise a choice between 70F and 40F i would guarantee they'd choose 70F ....... the only reason they pick 40F is it's better than the alternatives ..........
 

Loohan

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if you give a healthy turtle or tortoise a choice between 70F and 40F i would guarantee they'd choose 70F ....... the only reason they pick 40F is it's better than the alternatives ..........
I dunno... I have 2 adolescent boxies, and in cool weather, the younger one usually prefers the warmer side of the enclosure (closer to the wood stove) whereas the older one (whose enclosure is farther from the stove already) usually gravitates to the farthest side which might be in the mid 60s. This has been going on for years and both seem healthy. The body mass to surface area ratio might have a lot to do with it. A bigger animal retains more internal warmth. But i also suspect there is just some difference between these individuals.
Occasionally the larger one will hang out on the warmer end for days, though.
 

Loohan

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I dunno... I have 2 adolescent boxies, and in cool weather, the younger one usually prefers the warmer side of the enclosure (closer to the wood stove) whereas the older one (whose enclosure is farther from the stove already) usually gravitates to the farthest side which might be in the mid 60s. This has been going on for years and both seem healthy. The body mass to surface area ratio might have a lot to do with it. A bigger animal retains more internal warmth. But i also suspect there is just some difference between these individuals.
Occasionally the larger one will hang out on the warmer end for days, though.
I should say, mid-60s during the day but cooler when the fire goes out.
 

Tom

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if you give a healthy turtle or tortoise a choice between 70F and 40F i would guarantee they'd choose 70F ....... the only reason they pick 40F is it's better than the alternatives ..........
This has decidedly not been my experience. I maintain heated boxes for my tortoises, and for a variety of reasons, they will sometimes choose to park and go to sleep outside the box on a cold day or night. I have to go around every night and make sure every one of them are inside their boxes and locked up. On cold overcast rainy days, I check on them all about once an hour and frequently find them sitting outside in a cold corner all tucked in. I move them back in the warm box. This happens with tortoises that are new to the great outdoors and also with ones that have been living in the same enclosures with the same heated boxes for years. Single tortoises and groups.

So they don't always choose the warmer temperature, and we could probably guess dozens of reasons why this might be. Our enclosures are not the wild.
 

mark1

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i couldn't tell you what the problem is with your tortoises seeking less than optimal temps , or possibly not knowing how or when to seek optimal temps , either would not be a successful survival strategy ......my guess would be you are correct your enclosure is not natural .. many experiments have been done on determining preferred body temps in many poikilotherms captive and wild ........ one method is to offer them a choice , another is to randomly take body temps of wild animals , i've also seen where they implant temperature sensors in wild reptiles ..........

when the air temp begins to not reach optimal levels , poikilotherms will use the environment , basking , the ground , water ........ my eastern box turtles enclosure is roughly 900sq ft. , in one corner is the backside of a heated house for the pulcherrima manni ...... when the average temps begin to drop where they cannot attain their preferred body temp, most every box turtle in the pen will use the ground at the back of that heated house for warmth at some point ....... when i shut the house down late fall , they will leave the area and start using other methods ...... if i put a heat lamp in the enclosure , most every turtle in the enclosure will find it within a day ..........

when the temps are not optimal, the turtles , every single one, will retreat to the leaf/grass pile , i have never found a well turtle not in the leaf pile when our days are 40-50's , decaying grass gives off heat , they are masters at finding heat ....... as the winter approaches they know to come up or go down ...... as winter sets in they know to go down for heat , they know in the spring to come up for heat ........ their ability to thermoregulate is right out front neon yellow obvious ........ if i had a turtle choosing 40 over 70 , or 40 0ver 60 i'd assume they were ill , i've been there done that , and they were ill ....... i watch water hibernating turtles choose sunny 40 over shaded 40 almost 100% of the time

here's the temp gradient in a 10"x12" tupperware container for 2 baby eastern box turtles , i can about guarantee they will be found in the middle 80-90% of the time , and i do look for them every couple days since they been in the house ....


DSCF0043-2.jpg
 

Tom

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i couldn't tell you what the problem is with your tortoises seeking less than optimal temps , or possibly not knowing how or when to seek optimal temps , either would not be a successful survival strategy ......my guess would be you are correct your enclosure is not natural .. many experiments have been done on determining preferred body temps in many poikilotherms captive and wild ........ one method is to offer them a choice , another is to randomly take body temps of wild animals , i've also seen where they implant temperature sensors in wild reptiles ..........

when the air temp begins to not reach optimal levels , poikilotherms will use the environment , basking , the ground , water ........ my eastern box turtles enclosure is roughly 900sq ft. , in one corner is the backside of a heated house for the pulcherrima manni ...... when the average temps begin to drop where they cannot attain their preferred body temp, most every box turtle in the pen will use the ground at the back of that heated house for warmth at some point ....... when i shut the house down late fall , they will leave the area and start using other methods ...... if i put a heat lamp in the enclosure , most every turtle in the enclosure will find it within a day ..........

when the temps are not optimal, the turtles , every single one, will retreat to the leaf/grass pile , i have never found a well turtle not in the leaf pile when our days are 40-50's , decaying grass gives off heat , they are masters at finding heat ....... as the winter approaches they know to come up or go down ...... as winter sets in they know to go down for heat , they know in the spring to come up for heat ........ their ability to thermoregulate is right out front neon yellow obvious ........ if i had a turtle choosing 40 over 70 , or 40 0ver 60 i'd assume they were ill , i've been there done that , and they were ill ....... i watch water hibernating turtles choose sunny 40 over shaded 40 almost 100% of the time

here's the temp gradient in a 10"x12" tupperware container for 2 baby eastern box turtles , i can about guarantee they will be found in the middle 80-90% of the time , and i do look for them every couple days since they been in the house ....


DSCF0043-2.jpg
My guys here also know where the effective sunning spots at different times of the day are, and the majority of them put themselves away the majority of the time after learning the routine, but you seem to be primarily talking about North American species in North America in large naturalistic type enclosures. The problem comes when we have non-native species that come from warmer areas of the world and they don't seem to have the capacity to understand making the right choices because they did not evolve that way.
 

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i've yet to have a c.a. wood turtle succumb to the cold , i do not lock them up at night ,they are free to come and go , they too have no issues finding the heat ...... i'd guess the lack of a burrow to a species dependent on it's burrow could be pretty disruptive .... i am relatively certain within the sulcata's native range they experience 30-40F temps , as well as temps hot enough to cook them , surviving in any environment takes some maneuvering , i don't believe there is a place on earth where a reptile could survive without the instincts to use the environment for thermoregulation .......... parts of sudan where iverson says sulcatas inhabit average in the 60's for the months of dec. jan. and february ....
 

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i've yet to have a c.a. wood turtle succumb to the cold , i do not lock them up at night ,they are free to come and go , they too have no issues finding the heat ...... i'd guess the lack of a burrow to a species dependent on it's burrow could be pretty disruptive .... i am relatively certain within the sulcata's native range they experience 30-40F temps , as well as temps hot enough to cook them , surviving in any environment takes some maneuvering , i don't believe there is a place on earth where a reptile could survive without the instincts to use the environment for thermoregulation .......... parts of sudan where iverson says sulcatas inhabit average in the 60's for the months of dec. jan. and february ....
Again, you are taking about wild tortoises in the wild knowing how to survive and thermoregulate in their native ranges. No argument from me there. But this is not what we see with captive tortoises in foreign countries with weather patterns that are decidedly different from the native ranges.

My sulcatas and DTs never had any problem adjusting to a night box after using a burrow all summer. The night box appears to be a suitable substitute in their minds.

Ground temps in the Sahel are 80-85 year round. I've never seen outdoor ambient temps in the areas where sulcatas occur dropping below the high 60s at night, and even when that rarely happens, its is hot the next day, and they are down in their warm burrows.

Some of my tortoises, in fact most of them most of the time, will seek out suitable shelter and temps, but not all of them and not all of the time. I just saw a picture of a friend in FL moving Galapagos tortoises into heated shelters with a forklift today to help them escape the cold spell. Those tortoises have lived there for years and know where the heated shelters are, but they do not have the sense to seek them out, unlike your wood turtles apparently did. I've seen this many times with many species of tortoise. I don't have personal experience housing turtles outdoors, but I know of many people here who do, and it does not seem to be a problem for them. Not so with tropical tortoise species here. Or temperature tortoise species for that matter...
 

mark1

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if it's what your seeing you need to do , then it's what you need to do .......... as i've seen you say before , just because they can survive something doesn't mean it's best for them .......

here are some average temps, lows, lowest recorded temps within sulcatas native range as recorded by iverson and taken from an article co-authored by your friend Tomas Diagne .......

the authors of the article reported populations of sucatas along the nile as far north as wadi halfa, sudan ( they are not sure if the population was introduced)
wadi-halfa.jpg

iverson found populations along the nile near dongola, sudan

dongola.jpg



iverson found populations in and around tessalit mali , including north of this location.....
tessalit-mali.jpg



agadez niger is roughly the middle latitude of their niger population based on iverson's records ........

aggadez-niger.jpg
 

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"Tropical species like sulcatas, red foots, and star tortoises for example, do NOT brumate. Leaving one of these outside without a temperature controlled shelter during a North American winter is cruel and often fatal if temps drop low enough for long enough. You can get away with it in some cases in south Florida and parts of Arizona, but it is not "good" for these animals to drop below certain temperatures, even if they can "survive" these un-naturally low temperatures. I have seen countless tortoises die this way because ignorant people tell other ignorant people that "Its fine... I've been doing it for years..", and then they have no explanation for why the tortoise died. I'll end this paragraph with this: Keep tropical tortoise species at tropical temperatures. Enough said." - Tom


Oh my goodness ..... THIS! I just had this discussion with a local person today. He was getting advice from a kid on youtube who has TWO (yeah, I pointed out that issue as well) Sulcatas together, lives with his parents, and has had them for two years so considers himself an expert, and started a channel. Claims they can "handle" temps in the 40's.

I did my best to explain to him, that as a warm blooded human, he can strip naked and sleep outside when it's in the 40's, and be much more comfortable and safe than a cold blooded tortoise. I also told him to stay off youtube and pay this forum a visit for CORRECT information.
Well said!!!
 

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I was waiting for you or someone to write this. I almost pm you last week to ask if you could do a quick thread on it. Soooooo many threads every year asking the same question as you stated in the beginning.
Thank you for writing this.
 

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