Wintering a coastal Russian


New Member
Mar 22, 2019
Location (City and/or State)
Orange County, CA
Hello fellow turtle lovers -

I have a female Russian, Violet, I've had for about 9 months, she was found wandering last spring and I adopted her. I don't know her age, but judging from the condition of her shell, I'm guessing she's 10+ years. She has her own outdoor enclosure complete with a hide she loves. All summer she put herself to bed at about 4:30 pm and I locked her up for the night, releasing her in the morning. Now that we are headed into winter I'm not sure how to go about putting her to sleep for the winter. We live in coastal Orange County, the temperatures are moderate comparatively, 70s daytime and 50s night time. We are still having temps of 80 degrees occasionally and I think it might be confusing her, I know it's confusing me!

She has stopped eating and rises later in the morning, sunbathes for awhile then paces inside her enclosure. Late in the afternoon she hides under the ferns in her enclosure instead of going into her hide.

I have a plastic crate filled halfway with orchid bark and a lid drilled with holes to allow for circulation ready for her to sleep in and I plan on keeping her in the garage where it will stay much cooler. I'm just not sure when to put her down for her long winters nap.

Her behavior is telling me she's ready, I just don't know how or when to do it. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you!


Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
If it doesn't get cold enough for the tortoise to brumate, it's not a good idea to allow it. Brumation temperature should be around 40F degrees day and night. If your area doesn't get that cold I suggest you add some lights and heat and keep the tortoise awake. Refrigerator brumation is also something you can think of.


Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Feb 17, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
Newport Coast, CA
It’s been a weird year for our tortoise here in Newport Coast as well. Last year she was up until late November with the sunny weather. This year we had a gray week and she decided it was time; went down mid October. Ours is ready when she starts digging down rather than just hiding but every tortoise is different. When it hits the fifties consistently at night it’s reasonable to put her into brumation so long as she hasn’t eaten for two weeks or so.

Fifty degrees is not cold enough for a Russian to successfully brumate. They need it colder, around forty degrees; otherwise they are restless and will burn off calories and water. It’s too damp here for me to encourage outdoor brumation.

I can’t imagine your garage will stay consistently in the forties so unfortunately you will either need to build an appropriate indoor enclosure to keep her up or fridge brumate. We fridge brumate and started with the instructions and advice found at the Tortoise Trust, here and here Be advised these instructions were written for people in the UK, many of whom have tortoise types other than a Russian and who can tolerate temperatures in the fifties; you really do need it colder. If you go this route, don’t worry about the air pump instructions, just open the door every so often. We started with a simple dorm fridge, which unfortunately she outgrew this year.

Sorry to pop a major change on you, :(

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