A question about evening sun exposure

Joined
May 13, 2021
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Las Vegas, NV
Hello!

So here in Vegas we're in the middle of a heat wave.. the high tomorrow is supposed to be 115 F and the low is 82 F. This is quite early in the summer for these high temperatures. Currently, I don't have any deep shade or deep holes for Beans to hide from the heat in. For the past few weeks I've been supervising him outside for around an hour while the temperature is 80-90 F and misting off the area he's in, making sure he doesn't get above 100 F.

I've been wondering for awhile now: how direct does the sunlight have to be for him to be getting the rays he needs? My backyard is on the east side of my house, so in the evening the sun is completely obstructed by my house. However, that also means it's significantly cooler and I can afford to keep him outdoors for a longer amount of time without worrying about him getting way too hot and having to check his temperature every 15 minutes. It would be nice if I could bring him out in the evening but since there's hardly any sun I've been worried it wouldn't be enough for him. Would I just need to have him out for a longer length of time, or would it not be enough light at all?

I also don't mind waking up at 7am to let him have a couple hours of sunlight, but my neighbors house also obstructs the sun from the opposite side of my yard so we don't get the very early morning sun either. I didn't account for that in my little doodle, but in the morning it's just flipped around. I have also been considering getting a UV/MB bulb, but I've been having some trouble deciding which one to get, and I also don't want to rely on that until it's getting cold out in the winter.
 

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Tom

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What species, size and age are we talking about?

There is almost no UV in the first three hours of sunshine in the morning or the last 3 in the evening. Mid day is when they get their UV, but its too hot mid day in summer in climates like ours. Bottom line: UV is not a concern for any tortoise living outside with access to sunshine for at least pat of each day.

The bigger concern is over heating. There needs to be somewhere cooler than 100 degrees in the enclosure where the tortoise can escape the heat. If you don't have an underground bunker of some sort made, make one tonight. Or bring the tortoise inside the house into a large indoor enclosure.
 
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
49
Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas, NV
What species, size and age are we talking about?

There is almost no UV in the first three hours of sunshine in the morning or the last 3 in the evening. Mid day is when they get their UV, but its too hot mid day in summer in climates like ours. Bottom line: UV is not a concern for any tortoise living outside with access to sunshine for at least pat of each day.

The bigger concern is over heating. There needs to be somewhere cooler than 100 degrees in the enclosure where the tortoise can escape the heat. If you don't have an underground bunker of some sort made, make one tonight. Or bring the tortoise inside the house into a large indoor enclosure.
Russian, his shell is about 5 inches, and I don't know his age. I read somewhere that in the wild you could tell by the lines on their shell their age but that it wasn't accurate for tortoises kept in captivity? When I read it I had counted about 10, but I'm not sure if that's accurate...

I'm definitely worried about overheating. Currently, he has a smaller indoor enclosure while I'm working on a larger outdoor one, although it's taking longer than I expected it to and I would like to have a larger enclosure indoors for him anyways in the winter so I'll be expanding his indoor one soon. Temporarily he is living indoors and depending on how hot it is outside I've been trying to get 30-120 minutes of sunshine a day. When I have him outdoors, I have a misted and shaded area that I keep around 80-90 degrees and he'll move between the cooler and warmer areas.

It's good to know about the lack of UV during those hours, I typically have had him out between 9am-12pm. That's still early enough that I won't have too hard of a time keeping the temperatures lower.
 

Neal

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A russian of that size will be able to tolerate living outside in the heat. You'll need to set him up with a lot of shade and easy access to water, but even in 115+ it is possible for them to thrive well.

I like layers of shade for my enclosures. I usually have some sort of a burrow...a piece of wood or flagstone that is dug out underneath so that they can crawl underneath with enough space so that they can't rub their shells on the hard surfaces. The soil is loose so that they can dig into it. I surround this with shady plants...fountain grass is a favorite of mine. I'll add some shade screens above this if the plants are young or small. A water bowl is close by and is also shaded. The plants are automatically watered, and that cools down the hiding area as well.

It is possible. It takes a bit of work and planning to mitigate the risks of overheating, but the benefits are worth it. If this is the route you go, I would suggest some sort of a gradual introduction to living in the heat. Even in a well planned and shaded enclosure, the tortoise should be acclimated before being completely exposed to the heat.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas, NV
A russian of that size will be able to tolerate living outside in the heat. You'll need to set him up with a lot of shade and easy access to water, but even in 115+ it is possible for them to thrive well.

I like layers of shade for my enclosures. I usually have some sort of a burrow...a piece of wood or flagstone that is dug out underneath so that they can crawl underneath with enough space so that they can't rub their shells on the hard surfaces. The soil is loose so that they can dig into it. I surround this with shady plants...fountain grass is a favorite of mine. I'll add some shade screens above this if the plants are young or small. A water bowl is close by and is also shaded. The plants are automatically watered, and that cools down the hiding area as well.

It is possible. It takes a bit of work and planning to mitigate the risks of overheating, but the benefits are worth it. If this is the route you go, I would suggest some sort of a gradual introduction to living in the heat. Even in a well planned and shaded enclosure, the tortoise should be acclimated before being completely exposed to the heat.
I have been looking a lot at the enclosures that Tyler and Sarah from TortoiseSupply have made as they also live in my area. I asked them awhile ago about the grasses that they use for shade and I was going to go next weekend to see if I could find some. I've also seen a couple posts on the forum mention 85% protection shade screens, so I was planning on shading a portion of the enclosure with that as well.

Thank you for suggesting the gradual introduction! I will definitely do that.

I thought I would have this finished weeks ago but after learning how well they can climb, I've been really taking my time to make sure that I can make this outdoor enclosure both completely safe from outside animals and crazy weather conditions, but also ensure he can't climb up the walls and end up on his back.
 

Tom

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Russian, his shell is about 5 inches, and I don't know his age. I read somewhere that in the wild you could tell by the lines on their shell their age but that it wasn't accurate for tortoises kept in captivity? When I read it I had counted about 10, but I'm not sure if that's accurate...

I'm definitely worried about overheating. Currently, he has a smaller indoor enclosure while I'm working on a larger outdoor one, although it's taking longer than I expected it to and I would like to have a larger enclosure indoors for him anyways in the winter so I'll be expanding his indoor one soon. Temporarily he is living indoors and depending on how hot it is outside I've been trying to get 30-120 minutes of sunshine a day. When I have him outdoors, I have a misted and shaded area that I keep around 80-90 degrees and he'll move between the cooler and warmer areas.

It's good to know about the lack of UV during those hours, I typically have had him out between 9am-12pm. That's still early enough that I won't have too hard of a time keeping the temperatures lower.
Lots of good tips from @Neal , as usual.

Your climate is a bit hotter than mine. but we get 100+ all summer ling too. We are over 100 all this week. What I like to do is dig a 12-18 inch deep hole with one side at a gentle slope. Then I place a thick pice of plywood over the hole and make a small entrance just big enough for the tortoise on the sloping side. Since these burrows are meant to protect them from summer heat, I face the entrances to the north. Then I pile 18-24 inches of dirt on top of the plywood. I make a big mountain of dirt and pack it as I go. Sometimes I'll use cinderblocks, rocks, or logs to help contain the dirt and keep it where I want it without filling in the tunnel entrance.

You will probably have to put him in there a few times to show him, but Russians take to burrows like this quickly. Even more so in the heat. Put a digital thermometer down there that records the highs and lows. It can be 115 top side and 88-91 down in the burrow.
 

Neal

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I have been looking a lot at the enclosures that Tyler and Sarah from TortoiseSupply have made as they also live in my area. I asked them awhile ago about the grasses that they use for shade and I was going to go next weekend to see if I could find some. I've also seen a couple posts on the forum mention 85% protection shade screens, so I was planning on shading a portion of the enclosure with that as well.

Thank you for suggesting the gradual introduction! I will definitely do that.

I thought I would have this finished weeks ago but after learning how well they can climb, I've been really taking my time to make sure that I can make this outdoor enclosure both completely safe from outside animals and crazy weather conditions, but also ensure he can't climb up the walls and end up on his back.

That's good to take your time on something like this. As long as the tortoise is apparently healthy, you don't need to rush anything.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas, NV
Thank you both so much for your advice!
I was definitely concerned about not being able to make a deep enough burrow, but if I make it in the center of the enclosure facing north I should be able to pile enough on top in order to create a deeply shaded space. Excited to update when his enclosure is finished!
 
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