Wintering my new three-toed box turtle in Texas.

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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I am about to adopt a three-toed box turtle. I don't know here age yet but she is about 5 inches. She will be living in an outdoor enclosure I will be building. I live in central Texas where we have, on average 25 days below freezing each year and only a few inches of snow about every 5 years. I have been reading about brumation, hibernation, and preventing hibernation by keeping them warm. Most of the information I find is about hibernating them in colder climates. I need some advice.

What is the best thing for me to do with my sweet new boxie for the winter months in central Texas?

Thank you
 

Pastel Tortie

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Don't worry about hibernating or brumating this time. It's usually advisable to keep a new-to-you box turtle awake, (mostly), indoors the first winter. I say "mostly" because she will probably slow down a bit on her own. In fact, there's a good chance she's going to drive you crazy (or close to it) this winter with what I call the brumation conundrum... "Is she, or isn't she?"

The best answer to that one is to make sure you're weighing your boxie at least weekly (ideally when you dig her out for a soak and quick check over), and record the weights. Whether she's eating, sleeping, showing signs of activity or not this winter... Basically, as long as she isn't losing weight, she's fine. :)

I may have said that more eloquently or with more detail in another thread recently.. I'll try to find it. :)
 

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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Don't worry about hibernating or brumating this time. It's usually advisable to keep a new-to-you box turtle awake, (mostly), indoors the first winter. I say "mostly" because she will probably slow down a bit on her own. In fact, there's a good chance she's going to drive you crazy (or close to it) this winter with what I call the brumation conundrum... "Is she, or isn't she?"

The best answer to that one is to make sure you're weighing your boxie at least weekly (ideally when you dig her out for a soak and quick check over), and record the weights. Whether she's eating, sleeping, showing signs of activity or not this winter... Basically, as long as she isn't losing weight, she's fine. :)

I may have said that more eloquently or with more detail in another thread recently.. I'll try to find it. :)


Thank you. So can I leave her outside except for nights that it will freeze, bring her inside on those nights in a smaller container where she can still burrow in the dirt? I can't find a list of safe temps for her except for "70 degrees on the cool side and 85 on the hot side." Can you tell me the optimum temp highs and lows they tolerate to be healthy?
 

Yvonne G

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No, if you leave her outside so she can sense the shorter days and cooler nights, she'll go into brumation mode. You need to make her an indoor set up and try to fool her into thinking it's still summer.
 
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Pastel Tortie

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Thank you. So can I leave her outside except for nights that it will freeze, bring her inside on those nights in a smaller container where she can still burrow in the dirt? I can't find a list of safe temps for her except for "70 degrees on the cool side and 85 on the hot side." Can you tell me the optimum temp highs and lows they tolerate to be healthy?
Box turtles, especially in the South, make that particular question less straightforward than it sounds. Kind of like humans, box turtles can withstand temperatures above 100°F for periods of time, but they don't like it or thrive in it any more than we do. If you ever get a temperature reading off a box turtle that would constitute a high fever in a human, assume immediate attention is required.

Do you have any house plants or potted plants that spend the warmer months outdoors? Especially if you have orchids or cacti and succulents... For ease in management (and memory), I would consider bringing the turtle inside no later than when the plants are brought in to protect them from the cold. Plan on letting the turtle dig in and sleep indoors until maybe February or whenever you would put the plants back outside in your weather conditions. If the turtle is active indoors, arrange for some outside time during daylight hours (returning indoors at night).
 

Pastel Tortie

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I defer to @Yvonne G ... If you're trying to keep the turtle thinking it's summer, bringing her indoors earlier is better. However, have a back-up plan in mind. Some turtles don't care what artificial weather conditions you give them, they still slow down or do whatever they feel like doing (or not doing) regardless. That's where the driving us crazy part comes in. :D
 

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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Box turtles, especially in the South, make that particular question less straightforward than it sounds. Kind of like humans, box turtles can withstand temperatures above 100°F for periods of time, but they don't like it or thrive in it any more than we do. If you ever get a temperature reading off a box turtle that would constitute a high fever in a human, assume immediate attention is required.

Do you have any house plants or potted plants that spend the warmer months outdoors? Especially if you have orchids or cacti and succulents... For ease in management (and memory), I would consider bringing the turtle inside no later than when the plants are brought in to protect them from the cold. Plan on letting the turtle dig in and sleep indoors until maybe February or whenever you would put the plants back outside in your weather conditions. If the turtle is active indoors, arrange for some outside time during daylight hours (returning indoors at night).

Thank you. This is very helpful. Especially, "If you ever get a temperature reading off a box turtle that would constitute a high fever in a human, assume immediate attention is required."

So I will create her an indoor and outdoor set up. I'll bring her in at the first good cold front, usually mid-Oct and keep her until it warms, usually late Feb.

Last questions, I think. Next year, when she has been with me for a year, do I change this and let her hibernate outside? Do I need to make sure she still stays at a certain temp?

Thank you both for your help.
 

Pastel Tortie

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Thank you. This is very helpful. Especially, "If you ever get a temperature reading off a box turtle that would constitute a high fever in a human, assume immediate attention is required."
I had a feeling you might appreciate that part... :), so I am recommending a resource you might want to track down, possibly via loan from one of the library systems you have access to. I got my copy for around $40 at the expo in Daytona Beach a year or two ago.

Turtles of the United States and Canada
By Carl H. Ernst, Jeffrey E. Lovich, and Roger W. Barbour
Smithsonian Institution Press. Copyright 1994.

The book discusses critical minimum and maximum temperature ranges available for numerous native turtle species, along with all sorts of interesting and potentially useful scientific information for each.
 

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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I had a feeling you might appreciate that part... :), so I am recommending a resource you might want to track down, possibly via loan from one of the library systems you have access to. I got my copy for around $40 at the expo in Daytona Beach a year or two ago.

Turtles of the United States and Canada
By Carl H. Ernst, Jeffrey E. Lovich, and Roger W. Barbour
Smithsonian Institution Press. Copyright 1994.

The book discusses critical minimum and maximum temperature ranges available for numerous native turtle species, along with all sorts of interesting and potentially useful scientific information for each.
Thank you. I will look for that.
 

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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I had a feeling you might appreciate that part... :), so I am recommending a resource you might want to track down, possibly via loan from one of the library systems you have access to. I got my copy for around $40 at the expo in Daytona Beach a year or two ago.

Turtles of the United States and Canada
By Carl H. Ernst, Jeffrey E. Lovich, and Roger W. Barbour
Smithsonian Institution Press. Copyright 1994.

The book discusses critical minimum and maximum temperature ranges available for numerous native turtle species, along with all sorts of interesting and potentially useful scientific information for each.


I just looked at Amazon. There is a second edition of this text available since 2004. Used for $60 and more. I will keep shopping but I will order the new edition. Thanks for the info
 

Relic

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A question worth asking is: As a 5" turtle (probably 3-5 years old at least), how has she spent her previous winters? If she has been an "outdoors" turtle her whole life, she may well be adapted to burrowing down for the winter. I remember reading an article long ago (40 years at least) about a study done on turtles that normally hibernate, but instead were raised indoors with warm temps year round. The researchers found that it shortened their life-span. Almost like the turtle is pre-programmed for a certain number of "warm-above-ground-active-days" and eliminating the hibernation interlude used up those days faster. Have not seen any further studies done on that topic, and it may have been dis-proven over the years, but I found it interesting. I leave mine out year round.
 

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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A question worth asking is: As a 5" turtle (probably 3-5 years old at least), how has she spent her previous winters? If she has been an "outdoors" turtle her whole life, she may well be adapted to burrowing down for the winter. I remember reading an article long ago (40 years at least) about a study done on turtles that normally hibernate, but instead were raised indoors with warm temps year round. The researchers found that it shortened their life-span. Almost like the turtle is pre-programmed for a certain number of "warm-above-ground-active-days" and eliminating the hibernation interlude used up those days faster. Have not seen any further studies done on that topic, and it may have been dis-proven over the years, but I found it interesting. I leave mine out year round.
Thank you. I will add that to my list of questions about her.
 

Tortoise Rescue Brenda

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IMG_1268.JPG IMG_1273.JPG

These are pictures of my soon-to-be new addition. I'm working on a name. She is currently living at the rescue I volunteer with. She is missing an eye and a back foot. She gets around just fine. I will get her story soon. She was possibly attacked by a dog. Isn't she a cutie? I taught special education for many years so she is perfect for me. My husband and I will be building her an enclosure with a screen lid to keep predators out. I'll post pictures when we available.
 

Relic

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That's a full grown adult (obviously) - could easily be 50 years old. The next question: are the injuries recent, as in months? Or are they old and has she has already learned to cope with them well. I can really see no harm in giving her a winter inside, but I would avoid waiting until temps drop low (30-40 F). I would try to keep her temps relatively steady between outside and in, bringing her in earlier than later. I'm sure she will do quite well at your turtle estate... they are tough little guys.
 
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