We have a new friend, but heat is coming

BernieL

New Member
Joined
May 8, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Indio, California
A lovely tortoise appeared in our yard about two weeks ago. We've done a lot of research on his care and feeding, and aside from feeding him properly and giving him a couple sheltered 'caves' that he's taken to in order to sleep, we pretty much leave him alone. He wanders all over our yard and can leave any time, but he seems to want to stay. I read that they can live in temperatures up to 100, but since our Coachella desert summer is serious (110-120 degrees) and predicted to hit in about 7-10 days, we're concerned about his safety.

Can these creatures take that heat? Should we make an inside enclosure and take him inside (the garage is very large, and AC-ed to 78-80)?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Bernie & Jeannie
[email protected]
IMG 6923
 

Dcatalano

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A lovely tortoise appeared in our yard about two weeks ago. We've done a lot of research on his care and feeding, and aside from feeding him properly and giving him a couple sheltered 'caves' that he's taken to in order to sleep, we pretty much leave him alone. He wanders all over our yard and can leave any time, but he seems to want to stay. I read that they can live in temperatures up to 100, but since our Coachella desert summer is serious (110-120 degrees) and predicted to hit in about 7-10 days, we're concerned about his safety.

Can these creatures take that heat? Should we make an inside enclosure and take him inside (the garage is very large, and AC-ed to 78-80)?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Bernie & Jeannie
[email protected]
View attachment 344413
Hi Bernie and Jeannie!
I love that this guy just showed up at your place! Could he have a home nearby? Maybe post on Nextdoor or a local FB page to find his home?
There are care sheets here that will be helpful if you end up keeping him.
 

wellington

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Almost looks like a Russian but most likely a CDT. They are native to parts of CA. If you live in an area they are native too then it's illegal for you to keep him. Some areas are seeing them when they never used too.
They know how to handle the heat and cold.
Post some more pics so we can be sure it is a CDT.
@Yvonne G
@Tom
 

maggie3fan

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Almost looks like a Russian but most likely a CDT. They are native to parts of CA. If you live in an area they are native too then it's illegal for you to keep him. Some areas are seeing them when they never used too.
They know how to handle the heat and cold.
Post some more pics so we can be sure it is a CDT.
@Yvonne G
@Tom
Indio...and yes, that tort can take the heat as it is wild near or in Indio the Indio area. Please just leave it alone....don't feed it or handle it...it will either live close or it's a male looking for a female. My problem sotais the looks of the carapace...look at this tort, no color and this carapace is rounded 100 2206
 

Tom

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A lovely tortoise appeared in our yard about two weeks ago. We've done a lot of research on his care and feeding, and aside from feeding him properly and giving him a couple sheltered 'caves' that he's taken to in order to sleep, we pretty much leave him alone. He wanders all over our yard and can leave any time, but he seems to want to stay. I read that they can live in temperatures up to 100, but since our Coachella desert summer is serious (110-120 degrees) and predicted to hit in about 7-10 days, we're concerned about his safety.

Can these creatures take that heat? Should we make an inside enclosure and take him inside (the garage is very large, and AC-ed to 78-80)?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Bernie & Jeannie
[email protected]
View attachment 344413
Hello and welcome. You have a Russian tortoise. It is someone's escaped pet and not native. They are adept at escaping and no doubt someone is looking for him. Please keep him contained in an escape proof enclosure. It could cause an environmental disaster if he gets loose and out into the wild.

They can handle the extreme temps just fine. Make an underground shelter for hot days. Dig a hole with a sloped entrance, put some boards on top of the hole, and put the dirt that came out of the hole back on top of the boards. Add more dirt from the surrounding area for even better effect.

They will also simply dig into the substrate like a stingray in sand to escape the heat or cold.

Here is all the current and correct care info:

Questions are welcome.
 

Dcatalano

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Location (City and/or State)
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Hello and welcome. You have a Russian tortoise. It is someone's escaped pet and not native. They are adept at escaping and no doubt someone is looking for him. Please keep him contained in an escape proof enclosure. It could cause an environmental disaster if he gets loose and out into the wild.

They can handle the extreme temps just fine. Make an underground shelter for hot days. Dig a hole with a sloped entrance, put some boards on top of the hole, and put the dirt that came out of the hole back on top of the boards. Add more dirt from the surrounding area for even better effect.

They will also simply dig into the substrate like a stingray in sand to escape the heat or cold.

Here is all the current and correct care info:

Questions are welcome.
It looks like a Russian to me too, but I’m only experienced with my Russian so I didn’t want to say anything in case I was wrong.
 

Tom

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It looks like a Russian to me too, but I’m only experienced with my Russian so I didn’t want to say anything in case I was wrong.
I do that too. I've made mistakes in the past. Its embarrassing.
 

TammyJ

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It looks like a Russian to me too, but I’m only experienced with my Russian so I didn’t want to say anything in case I was wrong.
I thought it was Russian but it seemed a bit "different" from those I have seen. Hope it's not hybrid!!??
 

Sarah2020

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Looks a lovely tortoise suggest you give it a shallow warn water soak so it can drink and try to alert neighbours and use social media and local vet to see if the owner can be contacted. Be careful not to post pics as the owner coming forward will have / should have pics to match up before handing over to a random person.
 

BernieL

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Joined
May 8, 2022
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Indio, California
Thank you all, Dcatalano, Yvonne, Tom, Tammy, and Sarah, for the kind suggestions. Here are some additional pictures of "Pete".

We’re relieved to know these determined little creatures can handle the heat, but will take some of your suggestions to heart, including Sarah’s about water, and all the info from Tom (the Dog Trainer). I’m going to try to dig and build a “substrate,” in case Pete stays and wants to use it. We will post something about a lost pet, but nobody in this neighborhood had one, and the only ‘tortoise’ anyone knew of was a water turtle that lives in one of the water features in our community. Pete doesn’t seem to like water—at all, and appears pretty obviously even to use to be a tortoise, not a turtle.

I understand the cautions some of you made, and we haven’t "kept" him, and won’t, in any permanent enclosure, or in any other way to stop him from leaving. No, he’s free to leave just as he came, and we’ll leave it that way. But he seems very happy roaming our property, and truthfully, being around us. I’m afraid we’ve become somewhat attached to him—maybe because we’re older, with a lot of medical issues, and live pretty isolated lives—but he’ll come right up and climb over my feet, then stare for a while, then wander off. We used some of the suggestions we found on Tom’s sheets and the Living Desert links to put out plates with a little kale, mushrooms (which he loves) and the occasional bits of apple or papaya (ditto), and we leave several very low water dishes out and make sure the water's fresh every day.

In truth, his presence has been a blessing, but we understand it may only be temporary. If and when an owner (and thanks for the wisdom, Sarah: we won’t post pictures), contacts us, we’ll make sure he’s safely back.

So thank you all so much again. Really gratifying to see such a nice group in a world of such nice creatures.
 

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Tom

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Thank you all, Dcatalano, Yvonne, Tom, Tammy, and Sarah, for the kind suggestions. Here are some additional pictures of "Pete".

We’re relieved to know these determined little creatures can handle the heat, but will take some of your suggestions to heart, including Sarah’s about water, and all the info from Tom (the Dog Trainer). I’m going to try to dig and build a “substrate,” in case Pete stays and wants to use it. We will post something about a lost pet, but nobody in this neighborhood had one, and the only ‘tortoise’ anyone knew of was a water turtle that lives in one of the water features in our community. Pete doesn’t seem to like water—at all, and appears pretty obviously even to use to be a tortoise, not a turtle.

I understand the cautions some of you made, and we haven’t "kept" him, and won’t, in any permanent enclosure, or in any other way to stop him from leaving. No, he’s free to leave just as he came, and we’ll leave it that way. But he seems very happy roaming our property, and truthfully, being around us. I’m afraid we’ve become somewhat attached to him—maybe because we’re older, with a lot of medical issues, and live pretty isolated lives—but he’ll come right up and climb over my feet, then stare for a while, then wander off. We used some of the suggestions we found on Tom’s sheets and the Living Desert links to put out plates with a little kale, mushrooms (which he loves) and the occasional bits of apple or papaya (ditto), and we leave several very low water dishes out and make sure the water's fresh every day.

In truth, his presence has been a blessing, but we understand it may only be temporary. If and when an owner (and thanks for the wisdom, Sarah: we won’t post pictures), contacts us, we’ll make sure he’s safely back.

So thank you all so much again. Really gratifying to see such a nice group in a world of such nice creatures.
This is not a native species. It should not be allowed to escape into the wild. Allowing that to happen could introduce a disease or parasite that could wipe out indigenous reptiles that are not equipped to deal with the foreign pathogens that this tortoise could be carrying and showing no symptoms. This is exactly what happened in the case of the CA desert tortoise. 1000s of them have been wiped out due to exposure to mycobacteria. Please do not let this tortoise off of your property. If you don't want to keep him, then turn him over to someone who does. To allow this escaped foreign tortoise to wander off into the Indio desert is literally risking the lives of the indigenous fauna. I will personally drive out and get him if you don't want to contain him.

Also, they should never be fed fruit. This is not a fruit eating species, and the sugars in the fruit can wreak havoc with their GI tract.
 

Dcatalano

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2021
Messages
88
Location (City and/or State)
Colorado
Thank you all, Dcatalano, Yvonne, Tom, Tammy, and Sarah, for the kind suggestions. Here are some additional pictures of "Pete".

We’re relieved to know these determined little creatures can handle the heat, but will take some of your suggestions to heart, including Sarah’s about water, and all the info from Tom (the Dog Trainer). I’m going to try to dig and build a “substrate,” in case Pete stays and wants to use it. We will post something about a lost pet, but nobody in this neighborhood had one, and the only ‘tortoise’ anyone knew of was a water turtle that lives in one of the water features in our community. Pete doesn’t seem to like water—at all, and appears pretty obviously even to use to be a tortoise, not a turtle.

I understand the cautions some of you made, and we haven’t "kept" him, and won’t, in any permanent enclosure, or in any other way to stop him from leaving. No, he’s free to leave just as he came, and we’ll leave it that way. But he seems very happy roaming our property, and truthfully, being around us. I’m afraid we’ve become somewhat attached to him—maybe because we’re older, with a lot of medical issues, and live pretty isolated lives—but he’ll come right up and climb over my feet, then stare for a while, then wander off. We used some of the suggestions we found on Tom’s sheets and the Living Desert links to put out plates with a little kale, mushrooms (which he loves) and the occasional bits of apple or papaya (ditto), and we leave several very low water dishes out and make sure the water's fresh every day.

In truth, his presence has been a blessing, but we understand it may only be temporary. If and when an owner (and thanks for the wisdom, Sarah: we won’t post pictures), contacts us, we’ll make sure he’s safely back.

So thank you all so much again. Really gratifying to see such a nice group in a world of such nice creatures.
Bernie, just give him a name and an enclosure in your backyard! Tortoises are so cool, and this one seems to like you two. You could try the app Tortoise Table and refer to Tom’s care sheet for recs on safe foods. :)
 

BernieL

New Member
Joined
May 8, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Indio, California
This is not a native species. It should not be allowed to escape into the wild. Allowing that to happen could introduce a disease or parasite that could wipe out indigenous reptiles that are not equipped to deal with the foreign pathogens that this tortoise could be carrying and showing no symptoms. This is exactly what happened in the case of the CA desert tortoise. 1000s of them have been wiped out due to exposure to mycobacteria. Please do not let this tortoise off of your property. If you don't want to keep him, then turn him over to someone who does. To allow this escaped foreign tortoise to wander off into the Indio desert is literally risking the lives of the indigenous fauna. I will personally drive out and get him if you don't want to contain him.

Also, they should never be fed fruit. This is not a fruit eating species, and the sugars in the fruit can wreak havoc with their GI tract.
Thank you so very much, Tom, for the advice. We'll take it to heart.
 

BernieL

New Member
Joined
May 8, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Indio, California
Bernie, just give him a name and an enclosure in your backyard! Tortoises are so cool, and this one seems to like you two. You could try the app Tortoise Table and refer to Tom’s care sheet for recs on safe foods. :)
Thank you for the good advice. We named him St. Pete, or Pete for short, and yes, he does seem to like us. Maybe I'm projecting there, or misinterpreting his associating us with food, but we really like the little guy. We're not physically capable of handling children or dogs, but Pete seems pretty self-reliant--and so much the explorer. He's only lacking a pith helmet.

Thanks again.
 

TaylorTortoise

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Abington
Thank you all, Dcatalano, Yvonne, Tom, Tammy, and Sarah, for the kind suggestions. Here are some additional pictures of "Pete".

We’re relieved to know these determined little creatures can handle the heat, but will take some of your suggestions to heart, including Sarah’s about water, and all the info from Tom (the Dog Trainer). I’m going to try to dig and build a “substrate,” in case Pete stays and wants to use it. We will post something about a lost pet, but nobody in this neighborhood had one, and the only ‘tortoise’ anyone knew of was a water turtle that lives in one of the water features in our community. Pete doesn’t seem to like water—at all, and appears pretty obviously even to use to be a tortoise, not a turtle.

I understand the cautions some of you made, and we haven’t "kept" him, and won’t, in any permanent enclosure, or in any other way to stop him from leaving. No, he’s free to leave just as he came, and we’ll leave it that way. But he seems very happy roaming our property, and truthfully, being around us. I’m afraid we’ve become somewhat attached to him—maybe because we’re older, with a lot of medical issues, and live pretty isolated lives—but he’ll come right up and climb over my feet, then stare for a while, then wander off. We used some of the suggestions we found on Tom’s sheets and the Living Desert links to put out plates with a little kale, mushrooms (which he loves) and the occasional bits of apple or papaya (ditto), and we leave several very low water dishes out and make sure the water's fresh every day.

In truth, his presence has been a blessing, but we understand it may only be temporary. If and when an owner (and thanks for the wisdom, Sarah: we won’t post pictures), contacts us, we’ll make sure he’s safely back.

So thank you all so much again. Really gratifying to see such a nice group in a world of such nice creatures.
Is he missing an eye?
 

RosemaryDW

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Welcome!

If you look at my avatar that"s the first burrow we built for our Russian. It's just a reptile log on top but it's reinforced with all that dirt. It's in a bit of a slope and she first dug it out herself, just not very well. We don't have a great yard for digging.

She's long outgrown the log entrance and it's got concrete below now so she can't get down to hibernate but it's in the same spot. She spends a great deal of time there, coming partially in or out depending on how warm she wants to be (her head is always in the shade).

She's got deep shade elsewhere, as well as a night box but the burrow is where she spends the summer.

I don't think anyone has posted the care sheet for adult Russians: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/.

Russians can be soaked by getting them early in the day before they wake up. Keep the water at maybe ninety degrees (warm tap water). Use something they can't see out of. Take the water to them, not the other way around. Don't watch where they can see you: rude! Give them a minute to settle down and then hope you get ten to fifteen minutes before they get restless. I rarely soak my outside Russian as she gets plenty of water through her food but I would soak a new one and I would soak her maybe once a week if the temps were over a hundred for any length of time.

We've grown to accept our Russian could care less about us but we are also stay-at-homes who like to watch what is basically a slow motion aquarium. She was an escapee but we are happy she's here.
 

RosemaryDW

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Oh P.S. as you are in Indio you will be near a Mexican market—they will sell cactus, nopales, which are an excellent food with plenty of fiber and calcium.

It's about 50/50 your tortoise will like it but when they like it they really like it.
 

BernieL

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Joined
May 8, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Indio, California
Dear Rosemary,

Thank you so very much for the taking the time to help us. Our little guy Pete seems pretty well settled in, but we took your advice and (my wife) gave him a 'watering', including over his shell, feet and as he seemed more than accepting, even his head. My wife has made sure he has several sheltered, damp places to go, beneath overhanging plants, under the edge of a large boulder, and then, when he feels like it--which he does late afternoon each day--his "villa", a dark box that's beneath several plants, and even has a "carport" (small stool, covered by a towel) in front.

We're pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, but somehow Pete has opened things up for us. Really a blessing.

Thanks again.
 

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