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Desert Tortoise Newbie.

AZGirl

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5956329F-DB28-4A8D-A847-8213F630EB70.jpeg 47B70ACE-3A02-44F9-82B2-889E78AE52E2.jpeg 41632284-BC3C-4FA2-B52F-FA16259FDACE.jpeg 0CE57731-0759-4CF6-9645-F880BCD22C09.jpeg Hi, I inherited Parker 2 summers ago. So he will be getting ready for his 2nd hibernation with me (indoors). This is his first year outside during summer. He is a very very picky eater. Wants to eat only romaine. I can get him to eat some other stuff sometimes. Anyway, I’m worried because his mouth looks dark. Is this a problem? We don’t have a ‘reptile’ vet in my town but I did have him checked out by a vet before last years hibernation period. So, I’m putting in some pics to get some feedback on his mouth and look in general. His skutes were raised when I got him, he was not getting enough calcium or something. I have to hibernate him inside. AZ Desert Muesum says keep humidity about 30%. It is dry here ....not sure how to do that. Any input would be very much appreciated.
 

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Tom

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Hello and welcome. Most of the care info found for these guys, even from sources that "seem" reliable, is wrong. Following that bad advice often leads to the death of the tortoise, I'm sad to say. SOOOOOOoooooo many desert tortoises die from dehydration related issues. The above ground temperature extremes that they experience in captivity just do not match up with the steady consistent burrow temps of the underground dwelling wild ones.

Here is the best way to care for desert tortoises. Same as for Russian tortoises, but with a some grass in the diet.:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
 

AZGirl

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Hello and welcome. Most of the care info found for these guys, even from sources that "seem" reliable, is wrong. Following that bad advice often leads to the death of the tortoise, I'm sad to say. SOOOOOOoooooo many desert tortoises die from dehydration related issues. The above ground temperature extremes that they experience in captivity just do not match up with the steady consistent burrow temps of the underground dwelling wild ones.

Here is the best way to care for desert tortoises. Same as for Russian tortoises, but with a some grass in the diet.:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/
Thank you Tom. By my pics, do you think Parker is indeed a desert tortoise? I am 90 percent sure, but don’t have a reptile vet yet so wanted an opinion. Will read the links you provided. I soaked him right after I read your response to the Mesa owner. Thanks again!
 

AZGirl

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Thank you! That’s what I thought. I’ve read through Toms links. Still have a couple questions. I live in central AZ so Parker must hibernate inside. Last year he just went under his hide (half of a plant pot) and went to sleep, we covered top with towel and just peeked at him now and then.. We never put water in or anything, just left him alone. I was worried it was too warm although he was in a less heated area of my home, it still was not below 50 degrees. So here are my questions since he’s been going outside during day this year (he’s about 4 or 5 I believe).

How do I know when he’s ready to hibernate?
Do I just put him in his hibernation place at a certain time or temp outside?
Do I offer water during hibernation?
Do I have to have temp just right during hib?
How do I provide humidity in his hib spot?
It must be dark, correct?
Do I stop feeding him at a certain time or watch him to stop eating?

We have really come to love this little guy (we inherited from friends in valley who moved to OR). He even has a personality and seems social- to us. I want to do the best for him. I plan to plant things for next spring to improve his diet.

I so appreciate everyone’s time and effort to answer my questions. I’m really glad I found this forum.
Dee
 

Millerlite

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Thank you! That’s what I thought. I’ve read through Toms links. Still have a couple questions. I live in central AZ so Parker must hibernate inside. Last year he just went under his hide (half of a plant pot) and went to sleep, we covered top with towel and just peeked at him now and then.. We never put water in or anything, just left him alone. I was worried it was too warm although he was in a less heated area of my home, it still was not below 50 degrees. So here are my questions since he’s been going outside during day this year (he’s about 4 or 5 I believe).

How do I know when he’s ready to hibernate?
Do I just put him in his hibernation place at a certain time or temp outside?
Do I offer water during hibernation?
Do I have to have temp just right during hib?
How do I provide humidity in his hib spot?
It must be dark, correct?
Do I stop feeding him at a certain time or watch him to stop eating?

We have really come to love this little guy (we inherited from friends in valley who moved to OR). He even has a personality and seems social- to us. I want to do the best for him. I plan to plant things for next spring to improve his diet.

I so appreciate everyone’s time and effort to answer my questions. I’m really glad I found this forum.
Dee
My desert tortoise hibernate outside in a hide i have out there, it has sand soil mix and I put leaf litter on top once she digs down and sleeps. You could use the fridge methods which others do and can chime in.

Kyle
 

Tom

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Thank you! That’s what I thought. I’ve read through Toms links. Still have a couple questions. I live in central AZ so Parker must hibernate inside. Last year he just went under his hide (half of a plant pot) and went to sleep, we covered top with towel and just peeked at him now and then.. We never put water in or anything, just left him alone. I was worried it was too warm although he was in a less heated area of my home, it still was not below 50 degrees. So here are my questions since he’s been going outside during day this year (he’s about 4 or 5 I believe).

How do I know when he’s ready to hibernate?
Do I just put him in his hibernation place at a certain time or temp outside?
Do I offer water during hibernation?
Do I have to have temp just right during hib?
How do I provide humidity in his hib spot?
It must be dark, correct?
Do I stop feeding him at a certain time or watch him to stop eating?

We have really come to love this little guy (we inherited from friends in valley who moved to OR). He even has a personality and seems social- to us. I want to do the best for him. I plan to plant things for next spring to improve his diet.

I so appreciate everyone’s time and effort to answer my questions. I’m really glad I found this forum.
Dee
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/looking-for-an-rt-hibernation-mentor.128790/
Scroll down to post 19 in this thread for the full explanation of what to do for hibernation.
 

TammyJ

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You are in the right hands with Tom giving advice!
Tortoise is wonderful, I love these tortoises. Are his front claws really very short? What is his substrate in his enclosure? Just curious!
 

Coco Channell

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Welcome. I had a burrow dug for Pixie outside This will be our first hibernation together. I sure will miss her Thinking about giving her a Christmas in July after she wakes up Good luck with your little fellow They do have great personalities
 

AZGirl

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Arizona
You are in the right hands with Tom giving advice!
Tortoise is wonderful, I love these tortoises. Are his front claws really very short? What is his substrate in his enclosure? Just curious!

Yes his claws are very short. That was one thing that made me wonder about being a DT, the others had such long claws. But he is, Yvonne confirmed and I was pretty sure. I also think he’s male because he has a little concave on bottom. But he’s only five, so is he still considered juvenile? He is still eatin although has slowed some. My biggest problem is eating. He turns his nose up at grape leaves, grass, rose petals, etc. All kinds of things. He loves romaine lettuce which I know is not enough nutrition. I’ve snuck some squash in there and a few other things mixed in to fool,him. He’s will pick out the romaine. His mouth looks very dark right now, my biggest concern. Substrate inside is a reptile substrate we bought at pet store. It’s like dirt I guess. Outside where I put him during day is natural under a tree. Next year, we are going have a new one where I can grow some natives so he can graze better.
 

AZGirl

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Arizona
Welcome. I had a burrow dug for Pixie outside This will be our first hibernation together. I sure will miss her Thinking about giving her a Christmas in July after she wakes up Good luck with your little fellow They do have great personalities
Yes, Parker has a personality. He will hear me talk and start towards me. I’m worried more this year about his hib because I’m more educated. This will be his 3rd with me and I don’t know how he made the last 2 because I apparently did no do it exactly right. Particularly keeping temp,down althounhe took a good long sleep..probably too long, I see now.
 

Blackdog1714

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It is amazing how hardy torts are. Its probably why the do so well in the animal trade. Good luck with switching foods just like people- try sneaking broccoli under cheese and say its mac n cheese to a 6 year old:mad:. You just have to be more stubboner!!
 

bioteach

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View attachment 280374 View attachment 280375 View attachment 280376 View attachment 280377 Hi, I inherited Parker 2 summers ago. So he will be getting ready for his 2nd hibernation with me (indoors). This is his first year outside during summer. He is a very very picky eater. Wants to eat only romaine. I can get him to eat some other stuff sometimes. Anyway, I’m worried because his mouth looks dark. Is this a problem? We don’t have a ‘reptile’ vet in my town but I did have him checked out by a vet before last years hibernation period. So, I’m putting in some pics to get some feedback on his mouth and look in general. His skutes were raised when I got him, he was not getting enough calcium or something. I have to hibernate him inside. AZ Desert Muesum says keep humidity about 30%. It is dry here ....not sure how to do that. Any input would be very much appreciated.

We lived in Tucson for years before we moved to Phoenix (with our tortoise) and never hibernated our girl inside even as a hatchling. She dug herself in and came out in the spring a bit slowly and grumpy but totally healthy. One winter she decided not to even bother with a burrow and parked herself under a large shrub abutting a brick wall that faced south. She did just fine! We checked with a very good vet who specializes in reptiles and he indicated that either option was fine for a tortoise that is in good health. It was suggested to us that if we wanted to hibernate inside to use a very large plastic tub (or horse trough) 3/4 filled with native dirt with a screen on top to prevent a possible escape. It could be placed it in a garage or outdoor storage shed that remains very cool.

When a tortoise has romaine on the menu it will avoid eating foods that are healthier. Romaine is so easy to eat; but it is 90% water and a little sweet. Lettuce lacks fiber that tortoises need. Parker's mouth is probably dark because it is very moist. When our tortoise eats red rose blossoms and cactus fruit she looks like she has lipstick on! Try weaning Parker off of any lettuce and introduce foods from the Desert Tortoise Diet list. It is important to have enough fat in his fat bodies to last the winter. If he sticks to a steady diet of romaine with no diversity it may pose problems.
 

Yvonne G

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I have several desert tortoises who live in a large outdoor yard:

Desert tortoise yard 03-19-15.jpg

They have two shelters, one in the lower left corner of the picture and one in the upper right corner, and both are in deep shade all day long (the little cabin in the upper right corner is a bird house hanging from the tree). They are set on a cement floor (rectangular cement stepping stones, or masonry caps), cinder block walls lined with plywood and a plywood roof. In the fall when the leaves start falling, I rake up leaves and cover both the houses:

Desert Tortoise Shelter 4-5-14 b.jpg

Eventually, the whole thing is covered with leaves and you can't see any part of it. I make sure all the tortoises are inside and then I block the door. It is dry inside all winter and it never gets down below freezing inside. It's important that you don't allow your desert tortoise to be wet during brumation, and if it freezes where he is, his eyeballs will freeze.

When the days start to get shorter and the nights are staying cool, the tortoises stop eating on their own. They will come out and bask in the sun, then go back into the shelter. They do this for a couple weeks. Eventually they will no longer come out. At that time I know they're ready to brumate, so I make sure they're all inside and I block the door, adding more leaves until the shelter is completely covered.

In the spring, when the night temperature is consistently 50F or above, I unblock the door and allow the tortoises to come out whenever they're ready. One of the tortoises that lives here is Mi-Shell, a 70+ year old female that was my first desert tortoise. I've had her 30 or 40 years and she was full grown when I got her. She has brumated in this shelter every winter and come out just fine in the spring.

There's nothing wrong with your tortoise's mouth, and the shell looks just fine.
 

CeciliaCornwall

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I have several desert tortoises who live in a large outdoor yard:

View attachment 280533

They have two shelters, one in the lower left corner of the picture and one in the upper right corner, and both are in deep shade all day long (the little cabin in the upper right corner is a bird house hanging from the tree). They are set on a cement floor (rectangular cement stepping stones, or masonry caps), cinder block walls lined with plywood and a plywood roof. In the fall when the leaves start falling, I rake up leaves and cover both the houses:

View attachment 280534

Eventually, the whole thing is covered with leaves and you can't see any part of it. I make sure all the tortoises are inside and then I block the door. It is dry inside all winter and it never gets down below freezing inside. It's important that you don't allow your desert tortoise to be wet during brumation, and if it freezes where he is, his eyeballs will freeze.

When the days start to get shorter and the nights are staying cool, the tortoises stop eating on their own. They will come out and bask in the sun, then go back into the shelter. They do this for a couple weeks. Eventually they will no longer come out. At that time I know they're ready to brumate, so I make sure they're all inside and I block the door, adding more leaves until the shelter is completely covered.

In the spring, when the night temperature is consistently 50F or above, I unblock the door and allow the tortoises to come out whenever they're ready. One of the tortoises that lives here is Mi-Shell, a 70+ year old female that was my first desert tortoise. I've had her 30 or 40 years and she was full grown when I got her. She has brumated in this shelter every winter and come out just fine in the spring.

There's nothing wrong with your tortoise's mouth, and the shell looks just fine.
May I ask what you use to block the entrance? Cinder blocks? Is that to help maintain the temperature since it is more chilly? I think we're still a few months away from this because its still very hot here in the Phoenix area, but I want to be prepared. We have access to some pine needles, would that be a good thing to put inside the shelter?
 

AZGirl

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I’m at 5300 elevation so no chance Parker can hibernate outdoors. Last year, he just stayed in a big Rubbermaid under a plant pot (cut in half). We put black garbage bags around the outside to make opaque and had a couple inches of some reptile substrate mixed with dirt. He hibernated fine as far as I can see, but I’m sure temps did not remain below 50 even in unheated area of home. HE weighed exactly one pound last year at vet. We go today to reptile vet, so hopefully they will know their stuff. Parker is 5. I inherited him when friends from Tempe moved to OR. The found him in their back yard, he was size of abt a silver dollar. He did not get a good nutritional start and/or humidity b/c he has some pyramiding. Will that ever go away as he grows? What is considered adult in DT?? Thought I read 10. He is sweet guy. We love him but the more I know, the more I worry I’m not doing a good job. Have started soaking him as @Tom suggests. How long does he need to soak daily to be well hydrated before hibernation. I am currently taking him in and out daily because I worry about him outside at night still. Temps have dropped to low sixties at night here and high 70s to mid 80s day. I’m trying to sneak foods in to his diet, don’t know how I’ll tell if he’s fat enough?.?? How do you know that???? Not feeling real sure of myself at this point. Sounds like you can be doing things wrong for a couple years and think all is well and then lose them.
 

Tom

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Pyramiding doesn't go away, but does become less noticeable over time.

Adulthood comes with size, not so much age. They can breed at 8-10 inches.

I like to soak for 30-40 minutes. Longer will do no harm.

60s at night and high 70s to 80s AND sunny, are good temps for them.
 

AZGirl

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B5D35D7C-08DC-4A7A-9A61-5F5374BDD44C.jpeg
We lived in Tucson for years before we moved to Phoenix (with our tortoise) and never hibernated our girl inside even as a hatchling. She dug herself in and came out in the spring a bit slowly and grumpy but totally healthy. One winter she decided not to even bother with a burrow and parked herself under a large shrub abutting a brick wall that faced south. She did just fine! We checked with a very good vet who specializes in reptiles and he indicated that either option was fine for a tortoise that is in good health. It was suggested to us that if we wanted to hibernate inside to use a very large plastic tub (or horse trough) 3/4 filled with native dirt with a screen on top to prevent a possible escape. It could be placed it in a garage or outdoor storage shed that remains very cool.

When a tortoise has romaine on the menu it will avoid eating foods that are healthier. Romaine is so easy to eat; but it is 90% water and a little sweet. Lettuce lacks fiber that tortoises need. Parker's mouth is probably dark because it is very moist. When our tortoise eats red rose blossoms and cactus fruit she looks like she has lipstick on! Try weaning Parker off of any lettuce and introduce foods from the Desert Tortoise Diet list. It is important to have enough fat in his fat bodies to last the winter. If he sticks to a steady diet of romaine with no diversity it may pose problems.

Well, took Parker to vet on Monday. This one is reptile certified. Last year was just vet, didn’t seem to know too much about torts. So he said Parker looked good. He listened to his heart and lungs, checked his eyes and extremities, his shell (he said was good and hard) and even pried open his mouth to see the color and (saliva?) )Parker was not real cooperative with the mouth inspection ). He said Parker looked really good and that he was well hydrated. My main concern is that he has not gained but one gram since last year. He looks like he’s grown some in size but he weighed 1lb last year at this time and 1.01 this year. So I’m thinking his bad diet and picky eating habits. I’m trying to wean him off romaine offering other things but he is either slowing down his eating or just walking on by. How much should they gain in a year? How do I tell if he’s ‘fat’ enough to Hibernate? It’s late in the season to try and fatten him up. It’s starting to cool off at night here but days still in 80s so still taking him outside and soaking him daily. He seems to like until water cools. I could replace water to warm again but he gets a good 20 minutes. What do you all think about his weight?

Here he is saying okay, done soaking Mom.
 

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