Hello everyone! Russian (?) tortoise help needed..

Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
30
Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas, NV
I found what I believe to be a male Russian tortoise (please let me know if this looks wrong!) in my backyard about a week ago and I haven't been able to find his owner so I'm working on building an enclosure for him. We've named him Beans and I've currently been feeding him some young spring mix from the grocery store without the spinach. I have an old 2x14'ft flower bed in my backyard that we don't use anymore so I'm planning on building it out with retaining wall bricks and it'll end up being about 3.75x14'ft. I have a lot of questions about him so I'm not sure if I should make multiple posts, but right now I'm concerned about his enclosure so I can get it done ASAP because right now he's just living in a large 2x3 box with another smaller box inside as a hide and I've been letting him out in the flower bed during the day. I'm working on getting him a better temporary indoor enclosure but I didn't buy enough coco coir to fill the larger tub that I bought.

I live in Las Vegas so it gets quite hot here. The flower bed is currently surrounded by retaining wall bricks up against a larger brick or concrete wall. During the day here it's been about 80-90 degrees and the bricks get to around 140. The dirt gets to be around 150 in the sun and 80 in the shaded areas. I've let him explore around a bit in the dirt that's there now (we haven't used it in almost 8 years now so the dirt is very loose and I'm assuming infertile) but after a day out in the bed he was yawning and rubbing his face a lot and I read that if they're in very loose sand-like dirt this can happen. There's also a bunch of little rock pieces in it so I'm planning to dig it out or have it mixed with something else, but I'm not sure what a cost effective substrate would be. I bought some coco coir because I'm planning to grow some flowers (coneflower, California poppy, snapdragon), dandelions, and the Broadleaf Tetsudo mix from TortoiseSupply. I thought it would be good to mix with the dirt as a substrate, but it seems like it may be expensive to fill the whole enclosure with. Does anybody have any suggestions for what I could fill it with, or does the dirt currently in the enclosure look fine? I may have been overthinking his yawning/eye rubbing. I have some orchid bark also. I have a large 12x14"in terracotta pot buried on its side in the ground that I was going to fill with the orchid bark to create a more humid hide.

The current plan is to dig about a foot into the flower bed, line it with a weed barrier liner so he can't dig any deeper than that, and then I need to find a proper substrate to fill the space with. I was going to do the same for the area I'm building out onto, but that whole area is brick/stone and gets very hot so I need some options so I can make it a proper temperature for him. I'd like to line the bottom with wood or something to give a barrier but wood is very expensive right now...

Another question is whether or not anybody can identify the reddish flowers in the last picture. They blow in from one of my neighbors yards and I haven't had a chance to ask. A friend of mine said bougainvillea which is alright for tortoises, but I wanted to make sure it was safe for him because a ton have been blowing into the enclosure area.

I've added some pics of Beans (in the bath for a soak), the current flower bed set up, how I'm planning on upgrading the size, and the flower. I can take more pictures later, you can't see his tail in the pictures but its rather long and always tucked to the side which is why I've assumed he's male.

Sorry this is rather long, but I really want to be as thorough as possible and mention everything I've been doing so someone can let me know if anything hasn't been good for him!
 

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Ink

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I am not an expert but I believe That is a Russian. Hopefully an expert will be able to help you with the care. I no nothing about the flowers. I could be wrong
 

Tom

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I like your plan for the enclosure. The old dirt looks like it had perlite in it. That will have to be removed unfortunately. I wouldn't worry about the digging barrier on bottom. They don't dig down that much. I'd find regular old "clean" dirt to refill both sections.

He'll need some sort of underground retreat to avoid the baking hot summer sun. Many ways to do that, but monitor the temps carefully. They can over heat and die easily with out a cooler retreat when temps start topping the high 90s.

Bougainvillia is toxic, so you'll need to keep that out of the enclosure some how.

Here is the care info:
 
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
30
Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas, NV
I am not an expert but I believe That is a Russian. Hopefully an expert will be able to help you with the care. I no nothing about the flowers. I could be wrong
Thanks!! I was thinking so too after looking at pictures of other Russians.

I like your plan for the enclosure. The old dirt looks like it had perlite in it. That will have to be removed unfortunately. I wouldn't worry about the digging barrier on bottom. They don't dig down that much. I'd find regular old "clean" dirt to refill both sections.

He'll need some sort of underground retreat to avoid the baking hot summer sun. Many ways to do that, but monitor the temps carefully. They can over heat and die easily with out a cooler retreat when temps start topping the high 90s.

Bougainvillia is toxic, so you'll need to keep that out of the enclosure some how.

Here is the care info:
That's good to know, Tortoise table says its okay "in moderation" but I'm definitely trying to stay away from anything that he can't freely eat.

Would you define "clean" dirt as just dirt without any rocks/man made matter in it?

Clean dirt seems hard to find here.. I was looking at places like Craigslist for people who have free "fill dirt" from doing landscaping and such, but consistency wise it honestly looks about the same as the loose dirt that's already in the enclosure and I'm hesitant to get it from a random person. I'd really like to get fine orchid bark in bulk if possible, but it seems everything around here is mixed with pine or is just fir "mulch" with much larger pieces and everything online is absurdly expensive. I'll be calling local nurseries in the morning but I don't have my hopes up! I may just have to get some when I visit SoCal, but that'll be quite a bit from now. This afternoon I noticed that the coco coir I left out already had some bugs flying around it so I'm now heavily trying to avoid it as anything other than a medium for growing his food.

Thank you for the care sheet! I've actually looked at many of your care sheets but I actually missed this one. :)
 

Tom

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Thanks!! I was thinking so too after looking at pictures of other Russians.


That's good to know, Tortoise table says its okay "in moderation" but I'm definitely trying to stay away from anything that he can't freely eat.

Would you define "clean" dirt as just dirt without any rocks/man made matter in it?

Clean dirt seems hard to find here.. I was looking at places like Craigslist for people who have free "fill dirt" from doing landscaping and such, but consistency wise it honestly looks about the same as the loose dirt that's already in the enclosure and I'm hesitant to get it from a random person. I'd really like to get fine orchid bark in bulk if possible, but it seems everything around here is mixed with pine or is just fir "mulch" with much larger pieces and everything online is absurdly expensive. I'll be calling local nurseries in the morning but I don't have my hopes up! I may just have to get some when I visit SoCal, but that'll be quite a bit from now. This afternoon I noticed that the coco coir I left out already had some bugs flying around it so I'm now heavily trying to avoid it as anything other than a medium for growing his food.

Thank you for the care sheet! I've actually looked at many of your care sheets but I actually missed this one. :)
Clean dirt means no chemical pollutants. Rocks are fine. I wouldn't want gravel in it, but a few larger rocks won't hurt anything. Most "fill" dirt will be fine, but do enquire about the source. The problem with your dirt is that at some point, someone used a lot of potting soil with perlite in it. Perlite will be eaten and it can be deadly in time. They are drawn to it for some reason.

You'd need two pallets of orchid bark to fill in all the space you are talking about. There is just no need for "substrate" in an outdoor enclosure on the ground.
 
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
30
Location (City and/or State)
Las Vegas, NV
Clean dirt means no chemical pollutants. Rocks are fine. I wouldn't want gravel in it, but a few larger rocks won't hurt anything. Most "fill" dirt will be fine, but do enquire about the source. The problem with your dirt is that at some point, someone used a lot of potting soil with perlite in it. Perlite will be eaten and it can be deadly in time. They are drawn to it for some reason.

You'd need two pallets of orchid bark to fill in all the space you are talking about. There is just no need for "substrate" in an outdoor enclosure on the ground.
Currently working on getting clean dirt for his enclosure. Surprisingly a lot of people in my area are working on their backyards around the same time. Thank you so much again for your help!

Hello, thank you! 😊
 

Taylorlynn48

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Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
564
Location (City and/or State)
Abington
I found what I believe to be a male Russian tortoise (please let me know if this looks wrong!) in my backyard about a week ago and I haven't been able to find his owner so I'm working on building an enclosure for him. We've named him Beans and I've currently been feeding him some young spring mix from the grocery store without the spinach. I have an old 2x14'ft flower bed in my backyard that we don't use anymore so I'm planning on building it out with retaining wall bricks and it'll end up being about 3.75x14'ft. I have a lot of questions about him so I'm not sure if I should make multiple posts, but right now I'm concerned about his enclosure so I can get it done ASAP because right now he's just living in a large 2x3 box with another smaller box inside as a hide and I've been letting him out in the flower bed during the day. I'm working on getting him a better temporary indoor enclosure but I didn't buy enough coco coir to fill the larger tub that I bought.

I live in Las Vegas so it gets quite hot here. The flower bed is currently surrounded by retaining wall bricks up against a larger brick or concrete wall. During the day here it's been about 80-90 degrees and the bricks get to around 140. The dirt gets to be around 150 in the sun and 80 in the shaded areas. I've let him explore around a bit in the dirt that's there now (we haven't used it in almost 8 years now so the dirt is very loose and I'm assuming infertile) but after a day out in the bed he was yawning and rubbing his face a lot and I read that if they're in very loose sand-like dirt this can happen. There's also a bunch of little rock pieces in it so I'm planning to dig it out or have it mixed with something else, but I'm not sure what a cost effective substrate would be. I bought some coco coir because I'm planning to grow some flowers (coneflower, California poppy, snapdragon), dandelions, and the Broadleaf Tetsudo mix from TortoiseSupply. I thought it would be good to mix with the dirt as a substrate, but it seems like it may be expensive to fill the whole enclosure with. Does anybody have any suggestions for what I could fill it with, or does the dirt currently in the enclosure look fine? I may have been overthinking his yawning/eye rubbing. I have some orchid bark also. I have a large 12x14"in terracotta pot buried on its side in the ground that I was going to fill with the orchid bark to create a more humid hide.

The current plan is to dig about a foot into the flower bed, line it with a weed barrier liner so he can't dig any deeper than that, and then I need to find a proper substrate to fill the space with. I was going to do the same for the area I'm building out onto, but that whole area is brick/stone and gets very hot so I need some options so I can make it a proper temperature for him. I'd like to line the bottom with wood or something to give a barrier but wood is very expensive right now...

Another question is whether or not anybody can identify the reddish flowers in the last picture. They blow in from one of my neighbors yards and I haven't had a chance to ask. A friend of mine said bougainvillea which is alright for tortoises, but I wanted to make sure it was safe for him because a ton have been blowing into the enclosure area.

I've added some pics of Beans (in the bath for a soak), the current flower bed set up, how I'm planning on upgrading the size, and the flower. I can take more pictures later, you can't see his tail in the pictures but its rather long and always tucked to the side which is why I've assumed he's male.

Sorry this is rather long, but I really want to be as thorough as possible and mention everything I've been doing so someone can let me know if anything hasn't been good for him!
Are you using a screen to protect them from predators?
Awesome set up.
 
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