What goes into having a Sulcata?

Ghosti20

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I'm considering getting a tortoise and Sulcata's have always been my all time favorite. But before I make the committment it'd be great if anyone could let me know the care that goes into a Sulcata, as I'm still a newbie and want to make sure I'm fit to provide the best home possible.
 

SinLA

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By and large suclatas make one of the worst tortoise species for pets. See videos below from GST

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Before you consider anything, please read this link, it is a LOT but will give a taste of tortoise ownership in general.

There are Sulcata owners on here from environments similar to yours (@Len B ), but you are definitely making life very hard for yourself if that's the route you go. Also there are a ZILLION needing rescue because people get them and realize how hard it is to care for on, so if you do, after reading everything else about them, decide to get one, there are a ton that need homes...
 

Tortoisefanatic88

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I'm considering getting a tortoise and Sulcata's have always been my all time favorite. But before I make the committment it'd be great if anyone could let me know the care that goes into a Sulcata, as I'm still a newbie and want to make sure I'm fit to provide the best home possible.
Sulcata has always been my favorite tortoise species. I'm from PA too. Mine will be 9 years old this month. He's been living outside full time the last few years now. I actually don't think it's as hard as some say. I do have a fenced in yard so that is definitely something you'll need when they need to be housed outside full time and of course a heated night house. Mine does not dig or destroy anything. Worst thing he does he move patio furniture around. He ventures out even in the winter to stretch his legs. Every time it snows he goes right out to plow through it. IMG_4282.jpegIMG_4281.jpeg
 

Tom

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I'm considering getting a tortoise and Sulcata's have always been my all time favorite. But before I make the committment it'd be great if anyone could let me know the care that goes into a Sulcata, as I'm still a newbie and want to make sure I'm fit to provide the best home possible.
Read this for the correct care info:
 

Tom

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Sulcata has always been my favorite tortoise species. I'm from PA too. Mine will be 9 years old this month. He's been living outside full time the last few years now. I actually don't think it's as hard as some say. I do have a fenced in yard so that is definitely something you'll need when they need to be housed outside full time and of course a heated night house. Mine does not dig or destroy anything. Worst thing he does he move patio furniture around. He ventures out even in the winter to stretch his legs. Every time it snows he goes right out to plow through it. View attachment 369231View attachment 369230
This is so bad for your tortoise. Why would you allow this, much less show it off?
 

Tortoisefanatic88

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This is so bad for your tortoise. Why would you allow this, much less show it off?
Ive seen others on here showing theirs in the snow. Didn't realize it was that harmful? I don't want to lock him up in the winter as he still comes out for a 15-20 walk and then goes back inside even when it's cold out. He's been doing this the last few years. Should I just not allow him outside in the winter?
 

Tortoisefanatic88

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I don't see anyone saying anything negative in any of these threads?
 

vladimir

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I'm considering getting a tortoise and Sulcata's have always been my all time favorite. But before I make the committment it'd be great if anyone could let me know the care that goes into a Sulcata, as I'm still a newbie and want to make sure I'm fit to provide the best home possible.

How much yard do you have for the tortoise?

There are much more practical species to keep in Pennsylvania, to be honest.
 

TammyJ

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Hi. I don't know why apparently nothing "negative" was said before about tortoises in the snow, but honestly, it has to be wrong because, first, tortoises who naturally experience winter and snow where they live in the world all brumate, and second, it's just not right to allow your tortoise to roam around in the cold and snow, which is risky and unnatural for him, because it looks cute. We calmly and politely offer our opinions here, and that's mine.🙂
 

Tom

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Ive seen others on here showing theirs in the snow. Didn't realize it was that harmful? I don't want to lock him up in the winter as he still comes out for a 15-20 walk and then goes back inside even when it's cold out. He's been doing this the last few years. Should I just not allow him outside in the winter?
I've seen it too. Its a really bad idea and I cringe every time I see it. I can't even fathom allowing that. Is it an automatic death sentence? Of course not, but I don't see how anyone is going to make that case that letting a tropical reptile that needs to be in 80 degree heat 24/7 is "good" for it. People tend to compare it to themselves, but that is not a fair comparison. Strip down to a swim suit and go walk around outside barefoot in that snow for 20-30 minutes and then tell me how you feel. Better yet, lay down on your belly and drag yourself around with your chest, legs and belly rubbing the snow, and then go back in your house and tell me how long it takes for you to warm back up. Now imagine that you don't generate your own metabolic heat from within to warm yourself back up? This is not good.
 

Tortoisefanatic88

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I've seen it too. Its a really bad idea and I cringe every time I see it. I can't even fathom allowing that. Is it an automatic death sentence? Of course not, but I don't see how anyone is going to make that case that letting a tropical reptile that needs to be in 80 degree heat 24/7 is "good" for it. People tend to compare it to themselves, but that is not a fair comparison. Strip down to a swim suit and go walk around outside barefoot in that snow for 20-30 minutes and then tell me how you feel. Better yet, lay down on your belly and drag yourself around with your chest, legs and belly rubbing the snow, and then go back in your house and tell me how long it takes for you to warm back up. Now imagine that you don't generate your own metabolic heat from within to warm yourself back up? This is not good.
I completely understand what you saying and I get it. I knew it wasn't right in a sense given the the weather and climate they are from but I also would feel bad locking him up if he wanted to take a walk whenever he felt like it. It's usually not long and he goes right back into his house that is 80+ inside. Perhaps there should be sticky on this topic explaining the dangers of it. I learned most of my knowledge on tortoises from this forum and there are plenty of pictures being posted on here of them in the snow. In some of those threads there are long time members and tortoise keepers posting and commenting with nothing negative being said about this. That's he why I thought if he wanted to walk in the snow for a few minutes I figured it wasn't doing any real harm. I do always keep an eye on him whenever he does this and made sure he never had an issue getting back to his house at least. You learn something new everyday.
 

Tortoisefanatic88

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Also sorry to the OP for this thread going off topic but least you know this should not be allowed if you decide to own a sulcata where it snows.
 

Tom

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I completely understand what you saying and I get it. I knew it wasn't right in a sense given the the weather and climate they are from but I also would feel bad locking him up if he wanted to take a walk whenever he felt like it. It's usually not long and he goes right back into his house that is 80+ inside. Perhaps there should be sticky on this topic explaining the dangers of it. I learned most of my knowledge on tortoises from this forum and there are plenty of pictures being posted on here of them in the snow. In some of those threads there are long time members and tortoise keepers posting and commenting with nothing negative being said about this. That's he why I thought if he wanted to walk in the snow for a few minutes I figured it wasn't doing any real harm. I do always keep an eye on him whenever he does this and made sure he never had an issue getting back to his house at least. You learn something new everyday.
I get it. This is the reason we sometimes have arguments on this forum. We see something bad and we need to say something. Then the person making the original statement that is wrong, dangerous, or potentially harmful takes offense and tries to defend their actions. I know darn well that a guy like Len knows what he is doing, but then someone with less experience, or possibly less vigilance, or possibly less time on their hands to sit and watch their tortoises and fine tune things as he expertly does comes along and thinks they can do the same thing as him and get the same result. Often they learn too late about some detail of Len's care routine or knowledge. Someone reading our forum sees his pictures and makes the incorrect assumption that its fine to let tortoises walk around in the snow. I don't think it is good for Len to do it either, but if that someone reading and looking at the pictures doesn't have Len's exceptional knowledge, experience and ability, or if they just aren't as attentive as Len always is, there could easily be a frozen tortoise, frostbite damage, or even just harm done to the critical intestinal flora and fauna in the gut due to low temperatures.

Ever notice how a lot of tortoises, perhaps the majority, raised in areas with frozen winters are grossly undersized for their age? 10 year old sulcatas that are 10 or 20 pounds? Certainly not all of them, but definitely a lot of them. Len's tortoises are above average in size for their age, because he knows the fine points of making that happen, but the vast majority of people looking at Len's pictures don't have the knowledge or ability that he has. It sets a bad, potentially dangerous, example.
 

Tim Carlisle

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I keep a sulcata in SW Ohio. We barely get any snow here, but when we do it's usually on the ground for a day or so. Keeping a sully on colder climates is not impossible, but requires a LOT of work. I've invested thousands in my outdoor "house" to ensure it's adequately sized, insulated and heated. Ensuring a proper diet during the colder months can also be a challenge. I grow a variety of greens in a heated greenhouse to compensate for this (again, more $$ with the cost to build, heat, and maintain the greenhouse). I feed primarily orchard hay during the off season which I get in abundance from a farmer friend. In his house, I keep a programmable humidifier that I keep set for 55%. The heater will suck out all the humidity, so this helps make it easier to breathe (especially for me!) and keeps the dust and airborne particulates at bay. During the warm months, this area can be a sulcata paradise. Even in the worst of droughts, the grass and weeds are always plentiful. So to reiterate, keeping a sulcata in your climate, while not ideal, is not impossible. Takes a bit more diligence, time, attention, and money but is doable. My Ghost is now 6 years old, 75 lbs, and healthy as a horse. :)
 

Yvonne G

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Ive seen others on here showing theirs in the snow. Didn't realize it was that harmful? I don't want to lock him up in the winter as he still comes out for a 15-20 walk and then goes back inside even when it's cold out. He's been doing this the last few years. Should I just not allow him outside in the winter?
I think it might just be a matter of opinion. It doesn't snow here, but it gets damned cold, and my 100+ lb sulcata was allowed to go out as he wanted with no seemingly ill effects. I've not ever seen any scientific proof that an occasional trek through snow is harmful. I think the only harm might be when an uneducated sulcata owner sees your pictures and thinks its ok to allow his sulcata to live in the snow without the required warm up afterwards.
 

SinLA

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For what its worth, I don't put my RUSSIAN outside if daytime temps are lower than 55 degrees, and usually not unless its 60 *and sunny*. He isn't allowed outside overnight until nightime temps stay above 60 (though i don't have a heated outdoor enclosure so that's part of the reason)

Obviously there are lots of things you can do to have a tort safely, but since unlike many of us you didn't get your tortoise first and then figure out how to make it work, i would strongly suggest looking at other species. You may find you "fall in love" with one that is much easier to keep for your area. Sulcatas are too darn cute for their own good, but the smaller/hardier ones are also pretty darn cute!
 

Tortoisefanatic88

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I think it might just be a matter of opinion. It doesn't snow here, but it gets damned cold, and my 100+ lb sulcata was allowed to go out as he wanted with no seemingly ill effects. I've not ever seen any scientific proof that an occasional trek through snow is harmful. I think the only harm might be when an uneducated sulcata owner sees your pictures and thinks its ok to allow his sulcata to live in the snow without the required warm up afterwards.
Yea he's done it a handful times throughout the years and he in perfect health. Never had an issue with him. I can the pictures making people think it's okay as I seen pictures on here and thought if he walks through the snow for a few minutes what the worst that can happen. But I did watch him do this and made sure he always retreated back to his heated house in which case he did every time with no issues.
 

Len B

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I'm considering getting a tortoise and Sulcata's have always been my all time favorite. But before I make the committment it'd be great if anyone could let me know the care that goes into a Sulcata, as I'm still a newbie and want to make sure I'm fit to provide the best home possible.
I would suggest waiting for now. Main reason is because of your age. You are going to have many life changes that you may not have control of in the years to come. If you really want a tortoise now I
would suggest a Hermanns for where you live. I keep Hermanns and they do fine in my environment which isn't much different than yours. I tried Russian tortoises a few years ago and they didn't do as well because of our wet weather and as soon as it starts getting cold in the fall they wanted to go under ground. The Hermanns are easy to house and use a heated enclosure without problem. I use heated crocks for mine to get into to warm up. Basically they stay small my oldest male is about 5 inches. Females get larger than males. They stay active in cool weather too. Except for their diet they are like Eastern Box Turtles.
 

ryan57

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Yea he's done it a handful times throughout the years and he in perfect health. Never had an issue with him. I can the pictures making people think it's okay as I seen pictures on here and thought if he walks through the snow for a few minutes what the worst that can happen. But I did watch him do this and made sure he always retreated back to his heated house in which case he did every time with no issues.
I wish there was more data on the temperature maintained by this species when it pesters the heck out of the owner to go out when it is cold. I do have some data...



For those that comment without data or measuring anything, your opinion (or "way you feel", natural habitat described as harsh, etc.) is simply not valid.

Southern Central PA south of Harrisburg and North of Gettysburg.

Stump sat outside in the sun today (specifically basking for 2 hours in his spot on the dirt after grazing for 1.5 hours) until 6:15pm


He measured 104deg carapace temp when he walked into the house from this spot and then had a 1hr. soak, snack and went to his doggie bed. Tomorrow is 80deg in Dillsburg PA and he'll be outside all day.
 
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