Worried about Desert Tortoise not hibernating yet

Ciri

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I'm hoping Duncan just got up for a drink. No, I don't wake them to soak but I have been soaking the one that hasn't hibernated yet. This morning he was drinking from his dish, which was filled with rain water. They all prefer to drink from puddles if they have the option. Plenty of puddles now!
Puddles I'm sure must be more tasty! Mine always like puddles better than water dishes also.

My reptile vet has always told me to soak desert tortoises once a month, even ones hibernated outside in burrows. The two who were hibernating may have just gotten up for water. Research has shown that desert tortoises in the wild get up in the winter to drink water and then go back and hibernation. In the wild it's usually once or twice during winter, but their burrows are very deep – as much as 20 feet so they hold in the humidity better than anything we can build for them.

Hercules is still up, though. Has he been eating? It is pretty late to still be awake.
 

Kenno

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Ciri, thank you for this information!

I'll make sure the old one has had a drink, then I'll try to put him back to bed.
Young Hercules has finally stopped eating (I think) and has probably cleared his gut. He can stay dry in the greenhouse, with the door open. Unfortunately that one always pees in his sleep after he has taken a big drink! I'll have to hose out the greenhouse.

That middle shellchild, Alex, has returned to the burrow he dug and I've tipped up a sheet of plywood as a shelter half to keep him dry.
Our rain is very light and about 60 degrees. I'll watch them closely for respiratory symptoms but they all seem healthy so far. I wish they would stay out of the rain!
 

puffy137

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Hmm I know its a hanging offence, but my tortoises have never been soaked, never even had standing water available. I read they would get all the moisture they need from their food. The ground (substrate ) sniff sniff was watered for the plants that were growing in their enclosure. Thats all. Looking back over the years I remember going on holidays during the summer for 3 months & they were left in the 'tender care' or rather at the mercy of members of staff who were house sitting. Since 1993 only one unexplained death. & one accident when workmen left the enclosure open & one fell & was killed. From a beginning with 4 hatchlings now there are 25. So something must be going right.
As far as hibernation; the babies are not going to sleep. they never do. The males are mostly out & about every morning. The females turn up every few days. Its 19*c so fairly cool here.
I'm often reminded of the fact that sailors liked to load up their ships with giant tortoises so that they could have fresh meat during their long voyages, & that the tortoises didn't need to be fed:eek::eek::eek:
 

Kenno

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Puff, we had tortoises in this same yard in the 1960's and we didn't soak or water them either. They slept every night in the same burrow and they stayed in there all winter. A field biologist was our local expert and he recommended letting them eat grass with occasional lettuce and watermelon treats.
They were re- homed by my parents when I moved to Boston.
 

puffy137

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Puff, we had tortoises in this same yard in the 1960's and we didn't soak or water them either. They slept every night in the same burrow and they stayed in there all winter. A field biologist was our local expert and he recommended letting them eat grass with occasional lettuce and watermelon treats.
They were re- homed by my parents when I moved to Boston.
Exactly , well said. These creatures must think we are darned fools making such a fuss, they have survived for millions of years without us, I only hope they can survive our 'care':):tort::)
 

Kenno

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The two who were hibernating may have just gotten up for water. Research has shown that desert tortoises in the wild get up in the winter to drink water and then go back and hibernation. In the wild it's usually once or twice during winter ...

Hercules is still up, though. Has he been eating? It is pretty late to still be awake.

This seems to be exactly what happened. Old Duncan must have heard or sensed the rain. He got his drink, left four tiny pellets, and picked a new place to sleep.

Young Hercules is a different story. He sleeps in the burrow that Alex dug but he comes out during the day to eat grass. He's moving at about a quarter of his normal speed, travels only a few feet, and naps in the sun all day. ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1417944260.259643.jpg
 

Arnold_rules

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This seems to be exactly what happened. Old Duncan must have heard or sensed the rain. He got his drink, left four tiny pellets, and picked a new place to sleep.

Young Hercules is a different story. He sleeps in the burrow that Alex dug but he comes out during the day to eat grass. He's moving at about a quarter of his normal speed, travels only a few feet, and naps in the sun all day. View attachment 108490
Darn it. Didn't these guys read their instruction manual? They are supposed to be sleeping. Mine has been up and about right up until about one week ago. Sunning, eating and generally having fun.
 

Kenno

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ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1418842168.156451.jpg

December 17th!

Yesterday I learned that the former keeper said Hercules wouldn't hibernate, so he used to close him up in a brumation box in the yard.

That's not going to happen this year! It's 63 degrees and sunny here, so I'm letting him do whatever he wants.
 

Kenno

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Update: Hercules isn't hibernating, but he sleeps in his burrow for about 22 hours a day. His two companions are deep in hibernation. He comes out and suns, eats a little grass, and sometimes drinks water. I find very small poop pellets pretty far from his burrow, so he must be walking around. We had a cold snap last week with two nights that fell into the high 30's, and he didn't come out. I thought he was finally down! Hey, it's 83 degrees here today, so if he wants to enjoy it, I guess that's fine.

My wife is feeling cheated because she expected a long period with no tortoise activity this winter!
 

Ciri

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I know that if I were in your situation with Hercules, my reptile veterinarian would tell me to bring him in for a checkup. A good reptile vet might be able to get to the bottom of what's causing this problem. In any case, my vet has always told me to either let them hibernate, or keep them awake, warm, and eating. I know there's normally a transition time, and you've given him plenty of opportunity to hibernate, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. The problem with allowing him to eat when the temperatures are much cooler than the 80s, is that the food can end up rotting in his gut. And since something's going on to prevent him from hibernating, it would be best to bring him indoors. (And sorry to your wife – I know she wanted down time from the tortoises.) I would suggest keeping him indoors at night, and during the day when the temperature is below 75°F to 78°F.

I hope things can get sorted out with Hercules. I've had a challenge here myself, with a desert box turtle who hibernates for several days, and then is up for no apparent reason. He's only up for a short time, and doesn't eat, then goes back in hibernation. I see the evidence in his water dish. It's been hard to figure out what has gotten him up.
 

Kenno

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I know that if I were in your situation with Hercules, my reptile veterinarian would tell me to bring him in for a checkup. A good reptile vet might be able to get to the bottom of what's causing this problem. In any case, my vet has always told me to either let them hibernate, or keep them awake, warm, and eating. I know there's normally a transition time, and you've given him plenty of opportunity to hibernate, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. The problem with allowing him to eat when the temperatures are much cooler than the 80s, is that the food can end up rotting in his gut. And since something's going on to prevent him from hibernating, it would be best to bring him indoors. (And sorry to your wife – I know she wanted down time from the tortoises.) I would suggest keeping him indoors at night, and during the day when the temperature is below 75°F to 78°F.

I hope things can get sorted out with Hercules. I've had a challenge here myself, with a desert box turtle who hibernates for several days, and then is up for no apparent reason. He's only up for a short time, and doesn't eat, then goes back in hibernation. I see the evidence in his water dish. It's been hard to figure out what has gotten him up.

Thanks, Ciri.

To clarify, he's eating grass, pooping, drinking plenty of water, sunning, and looking good. I see that he has been "hunting" for dandelion flowers with good success. The weather forecast here is for warm sunny days for the next week. Now I've learned that this is his normal pattern and he has never been a good hibernator, as opposed to old Duncan who is going into his third month.

I agree that he won't go into hibernation at this point, but I think I'll maintain watchful waiting at this point. He just seems too healthy to need a vet!

I was an Emergency Room nurse for years, and I'd seek attention immediately if he needed it.

Best wishes with your desert box turtle!
 
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