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need advice on keeping large african spurred tortoise in florida

Discussion in 'Sulcata tortoises' started by amuck10, Feb 12, 2012.

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  1. amuck10

    amuck10 New Member

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    Hello,

    Long story short, my husband came home last night and asked me about African spurred tortoises. Turns out or neighbor just received one from a friend who got it from a friend who got it from a friend who could no longer care for it type thing. It is currently in his bedroom closet (well his parents lol). Given his difficult living situation right now (5 kids and him, no wife, living with parents…pretty much broke) I am sure once I go over today and explain the facts of owning one of these and that a closest is not a good environment, he will let me take the tortoise.

    What I am trying to decide is if I have the ability to take care of it, or if I should try to rehome it further South. Hubby says he is about 15 inches and probably 50 or 60 lbs. I have multiple turtles and have built them a Florida room with ponds and fish and plants etc, but I have never had a tortoise. I have read through care sheets and forums, but I am finding a wide variety of contradictory information.

    First question…predators and enclosure:
    Is a tortoise that is bigger than an opossum or a raccoon still in danger should they happen upon each other? I have an acre that is fully fenced, but I am trying to figure out if I would need to build him his own Florida room or if he can roam the yard safely. I am willing to make him his own enclosure, or modify my existing fence should that be adviced

    Second……..rain
    I see they need to be kept dry. Well, if it rains, is he smart enough to go into a home on is own?

    Third……Night time temperature.
    I see varying info on this topic. I live in North Central Florida. I would say at least 60 days, the night temperature will be in the 50’s, at least 30 days it will hit the 40’s, maybe 10 times a year it will hit the high 30’s and occasionally (maybe 4 different nights) it will hit freezing. I haven’t had the guts to try hibernating my turtles so I bring them the first night it will drop below 55 and then they stay in aquariums for 3 months until I know it won’t drop below 55 again. Obviously I can’t keep him in an aquarium through the winter and since he doesn’t hibernate, I need to isolate approximately how many nights I would have to bring him in. Obviously the nights below 40 he must come in. But what about the nights between 60-40? The low temperature happens for about two hours. Basically once sun sets, it slowly starts to drop, so we are not talking a sustained low temperature, we are talking about 2-3 hours. Can I just let him wander a guest bedroom or bathroom on these nights he must come in?

    Anyway if someone is nice enough to advise on these points, it would really help me figure out how to proceed and if you keep one of these big guys in Florida, north of Orlando, please share about your enclosures, habits etc.

    Thanks
  2. Jacqui

    Jacqui Wanna be raiser of Lemon Drop tortoises Moderator 5 Year Member

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    At that size, he is getting to be pretty much "predator proof", but they can (if hungry and determined enough) still give it a try. Plus you still would have dogs and coyotes, too. The Sulcata may not have teeth and claws to protect themselves, but they have this interesting bluff tactic of sorta huffing and thrusting their body at you. They can give you a pretty good jolt, if your not expecting it. At his size, I think your looking at minimal cosmetic damage, as long as he is healthy and warm.

    If you fix him a heated shed outside, most of your concerns will be addressed. Yes, they can be out in rain, they in fact love being out in it. Cold combined with rain is not idea, but at his size even that is more minimal. With a heated shed, he can get out of it or go in and warm up before more playing in the rain. :D With a heated shed, there goes your problem of where to keep him on cold nights, too. If you look in the enclosure section, you should find some good examples of ways to fix one for him.

    I am just sitting here thinking about that closet he is currently in, just visualizing how it may be flooded with pee and a nice layer of manure by now.... or the walls may have been extended out into the next room by now too... :p :rolleyes: :D These guys produce a large amount of urine and feces, much like having your own pony. They also are strong and can be determined enough to go thru walls in a house.



    [hr]
    BTW, welcome! Sounds to me like you could handle this new challenge. :cool:
  3. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    WELCOME:D I think you can do it. You have lots of room, already fenced in and you built your turtles a sun room, thats love for sure.
    You may not have to worry about this, with an acre for him to roam, however I did want to add that they are good diggers. They will dig themselves HUGE holes/tunnels. You may have to reinforce the bottom of the fence or even the whole fence, they are very strong. Again, with an acre he may be content and not try to bust through.
    All the info you will need is here on TFO. A lot of the info on the internet is incorrect or out dated. Good Luck, I think you should try to rescue him for sure from that closet:(
  4. amuck10

    amuck10 New Member

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    Thanks much for the advice

    ok well here goes nothing...about to hop in shower than run over give him some care guides and go from there. Assuming he agrees it is too much (he has no fence), I have a shed in a box that i haven't assembled and some dog houses my dogs won't use in the meantime. will research best ways to heat. of course tonight is probably going to be the coldest night of the year, but i just finished tiling a giant walk in closet (for another purpose) but I can keep him there on cold nights. Will not worry about creating another wired concrete walled enclosure just yet and see how he respects the fence first. coyotes aren't really a concern, have never seen one. I actually haven't even seen a raccoon (my dogs intimidate them, as they chase anything that runs, but they are pretty respectful, they just think the game is chase) sometimes i have issues with my youngest dog as she thinks everything wants to play and has a habit of running around large gopher tortoises and barking at them trying to get them to chase her (lol) but i am sure i can break that habit in a few days with controlled contact. it is hard to predict when she will see a full grown gopher tortoise so it is hard to keep reiterating the training as it happens so infrequently. we did manage to make her learn only one cat actually wants to play with her and see needs to ignore the rest (ok well the cats did half that training)

    ok two more questions. i built a small but deeper inground not enclosed pond for my goose and dogs to swim in. If i just encircle the area with cinder blocks, will that be enough to discourage the tortoise for trying to wade in. the slope is pretty deep and the walls are fairly slick, so i know it would be very bad for the tortoise to wander in.

    2, once they are too heavy to lift...how do you bring him inside on the really cold nights (I am weird, I dont let anything stay out if it gets below 35 degrees, even with the heated house....even the mean *** goose gets put in a large kennel and brought inside....I know, I am crazy, but i figure if i wont go outside because it is too cold, I shouldn't let them as even with heat the goose hut with the door open is like 45-50 when it is like 30 and i am cold below 75 so I think they must be cold too.)
  5. Zamric

    Zamric Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    If you have a yard big enough for a Sulcata (and you do) then you are in the perfect area for him! he will love the rain and the hot/humid days. You do need an enclosure for him to sleep that can be protected from predator... tho at his size... he is kinda predator proof (Except for rats!) Here is a couple of pics of WalkingRocks Bunker... easy to build and alows for some burming (digging). In the last 2 you will see a heater in the corner (Mini Oil-Filled Radiator. Walmart $25). Here in North Texas it gets used only for a couple of months when the temps drop below 60* and keeps his Bunker heated to 70+. Ignore the Heat Domes on top.... they proved to be in-effective and costly to run!

    WalkingRock is 24" and about 70lbs in these pics... this Bunker should house him for a few more years and is easy to clean with the roofdoor.

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  6. Jacqui

    Jacqui Wanna be raiser of Lemon Drop tortoises Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Depending on how you fix those cement blocks and how high you stack them, he may just knock them over. :cool:

    Most of the time, with the bigger guys, it's more leading them around with a favorite treat as the bait to follow you. For the lifting, think a strong person or two. :D

    I don't think he will be happy in the closet for long. If he is not happy, he will be trying to get thru the walls or dig down. Believe me, really your best option is to build him his own home (ie shed).
  7. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 5 Year Member Platinum Supporter

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    Hi amuck10:

    Welcome to the Tortoise Forum!!

    I think your sulcata will be perfectly fine outside in Florida. Just make sure he has a nice dry spot to sleep and hide.

    What would you like us to call you?
  8. amuck10

    amuck10 New Member

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    Hi. my name is Rachel :) oh yes she will have her own shed if i can convince them to give him up (my walk in tiled room would be for the 4 or so nights it drops below freezing...it was a bathroom, but i turned it into a closest as two people dont need 3 bathrooms lol) tonight is one of those nights freezing nights but back to close to normal again tomorrow night ...i don't know if i can get the shed up in time, so if i can convince them, I would need something for tonight, and tile is better than carpet.

    Unfortunately it seems to be be mute point right now, as so far they are not willing to let me take her. I finally got to see her. They were told she is about 15 or 20 but i think she seems smaller. She has some pretty pronounced pyramiding and other abnormal shell growth and diarrhea but no sign of an upper respiratory infection or injuries. The were feeding her peaches, so i ran home and grabbed some kale and spinach. hopefully the digestive system will improve with some fiber. We offered to trade some hard wood flooring or buy her outright but so far no go. Hubby is still there working on convincing them. They did agree to come over and meet my turtles, examine my yard etc. I left them with care guides, explained mbd and pyramiding, diet, needs etc, but dont really think it sunk in. she is real friendly though. As for my pond, if they agree to hand her over, I think i will encircle it with cinder blocks, frame them in some boards real fast and poor a concrete/cinder block real fast until i get around to building a pretty brick wall. it will be ugly, but it wont move. she is still in her tiny closet, but has done a pretty good job tearing up the mat they put down and the carpeting since yesterday, so hopefully she will start on the door soon and at least they will see tiny closet wont work....ugh...how do i get sucked into these things. hopefully after a few days they will realize how bad of a situation they are in.
  9. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Most people with a large tort and a heated outdoor house for them, will just shut them into the house for the cold night. If you make it large enough, they will be content for a short time. However, if you still want to bring him into your house, well then you will have to coax him with one of his favorite treats and make him follow you in:D
    Good luck getting him. I sure hope the neighbor considers the well being of the tort over his own. Keep us posted and we love pics
  10. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Animals aclimate to the weather.. its better to leave them out, with shelter, then to bring them in.. my 2 cents tho..
    however.. a sulcata will need some sort of heat on those cold nights.. install a Cermic heat emitter in one of those dog houses using a metal heat bulb holder.. found cheap at walmart.. and he will be fine.
    you will need to make sure your fence is escape proof. if he can see thru it, he might push unti he gets thru.. the pond... can you re do it so there is a gradual slope? they do like to soak.. too deep is not good obviously..
    I live in calif.. foothills above Sac.. mine are all outside 24/7. and Im working on getting my cockatoo outdoors 24/7 as well.. he will have a heat source if it gets really cold..
  11. Jacqui

    Jacqui Wanna be raiser of Lemon Drop tortoises Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Peaches huh? Well that may work in your favor, if it creates a mountain of runny and highly smelly manure. :D Be patient, I really think in only a couple of days, you will be having a new house guest... okay yard guest. :p :D
  12. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    DARN :(. If they don't give her up. Refer them to TFO and explain why they should join us. Keeping fingers crossed (t) you get her:D
  13. Zamric

    Zamric Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    WalkingRocks Bunker has a door I prop up with a cinder block at night... keeps him nice and toasty all night and if he wants out bad enough he can push it open! (and often does on sunny days!)
  14. amuck10

    amuck10 New Member

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    thanks, well they just took a tour of the house and yard and enclosures but still a no go right now. the fence is fairly escape proof...we spent the last 7 years planting a wall of bamboo so you cant see onto the property unless in 1 or the 3 driveways. many is running bamboo so we buried two 12 inch deep aluminum borders to keep the bamboo from running, so they would have to go below a foot and they cant see through because the bamboo wall. for the gates of the driveway, one is concrete, one has metal wire about 20 feet long buried about 3 inches down, and the other is tiled with rubber mats (a dog who lived down the street, used to dig into my yard, and the dog was rather destructive so we reinforced pretty much everything.)

    anyway thanks for the advice...guess i am off now as i can do nothing but wait. thanks for the advice...will update in a week or sooner if they change their minds
  15. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Maybe offer them visitation rights.. a closet is NO place for any animal... not even a yard for nice days.. its wrong.. even in humane.. work with them and hopfully change thier mind..
  16. ALDABRAMAN

    ALDABRAMAN KEEPER AT HEART 5 Year Member

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    We live in Florida and keep a large species of tortoise. Florida is a great state for tortoises, warm, humid, natural grass, weeds, and good vegetation for a larger tortoise to browse or graze. We provide plenty of space with an improved pasture, exercise is very important. We also keep our adults over 55f at all times. I have tried several ways to keep them warm during the cold nights and have found that 250w heat bulbs within a well build structure works good for us.

    Here are pictures of our heated housing structures. They are about 10x12x5 and I used all 2x pt wood that is double walled and overlapped for draft protection with insulated sheeting between all walls and the roof. I no longer use the white temp. unit in the picture, I now use a more true digital meter for my temp readings. Also because it is so insulated and draft proof it stays way cooler in the summer months.


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