Hibernation for Testudo

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Tom

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Thanks for the info Neltharion. More food for thought. I'd really like to see pics of your animals and their enclosures. I can PM you my email if that would be easier for you. I'm trying to learn all I can before I jump in with both feet.

GB, which Testudo species do you think would do the best in my climate here in the Southern CA Desert? I mean in a "put them outside and let mother nature do the rest" situation. I would also provide an underground shelter to help them avoid either of the extremes of hot or cold. We have intermittent below freezing nights from Dec through Feb. It only dips into the high 20's occasionally. The rest of the year nights are in the 40s-50s. Through all summer night temps are in the 60's. Day temps are 50's-60's through most of winter with occasional warm spells. 70's and 80's most of the year in Spring and Fall, and most summer days are around 100 with occasional spikes up to 118.

I will know for sure this winter, but I think ground temps in one of my shelters will stay in the 45-50 degree range with no heat.
 

GBtortoises

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Tom, I know nothing about the Southern California Desert except what you just told me! But it sounds to me like most Testudo species, including Middle Eastern Greeks would do well there. The only concern for any of the Northern Mediterranean species might be that they have adequate shelters in the summer to escape the extreme heat (tunnels would do great here) and that they have supplemental moisture often. If it were me in that situation I would spray the heck out of them with water in the early morning and evening. Based on the dryness in the winter, you might even have to provide them with some moisture during hibernation if it is too dry. Dehydration during hibernation can be fatal. But again, I have never lived in that climate so really don't know what the day to day might be.
 

Tom

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Well then I'll keep you posted whenever the experiments get under way. :)

I want to watch the winter temps this year down in my artificial burrows and go from there. My fear is that the occasional warm spells in winter will have them up and down and mess things up. But in my underground shelters, the temps should stay consistently cool during winter, even during the occasional few days with highs in the 80's. After all the nights will still be in the 30's and 40's.
 

GBtortoises

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True, warm spells in the winter might also be a concern. I don't have much worry about warm spells here in the winter here! Once in the past 20 years we had temperatures in the 60's for a week in January. That heatwave actually cause massive flooding and disaster in the area.
 

Tom

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Along these lines...

Last November at the TTPG conference, a man gave a presentation on the South African Bowsprit tortoise. Apparently these are hard to keep alive and even harder to breed for some folks. He has had no trouble with them and gets babies every year. To explain his secret of success he simply showed us a world map with some small areas highlighted in red. The Mediterranean area, South Africa (of course), part of Australia, part of Southern South America and Southern CA. He said if you want to keep these successfully, just move to one of these highlighted areas and keep your Bowsprits outside year round. He said he even puts his hatchlings out year round. On the occasional winter night with near freezing temps he puts a small night bulb over his hatchlings, but that's it.
 

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I would very much like to hear the methods from those who have sucessfully (consistently) bred Russians year after year, either outdoors, indoors or a combination of both. Conditions, temperatures, light, seasonal change etc... This would all be helpful to all the Russian tortoise owners who are potential captive breeders. Captive breeding of Russians might be the only hope that the species has to survive in the wild. If enough "mom and pop" breeders are able to start offering babies in as an alternative to purchasing wild caught adults at PetSmart and Petco maybe the demand for those adults will lessen and hopefully subside to the point of making their collection and mass importation financially non-viable to those that do it.
 

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GBtortoises said:
I would very much like to hear the methods from those who have sucessfully (consistently) bred Russians year after year, either outdoors, indoors or a combination of both. Conditions, temperatures, light, seasonal change etc... This would all be helpful to all the Russian tortoise owners who are potential captive breeders. Captive breeding of Russians might be the only hope that the species has to survive in the wild. If enough "mom and pop" breeders are able to start offering babies in as an alternative to purchasing wild caught adults at PetSmart and Petco maybe the demand for those adults will lessen and hopefully subside to the point of making their collection and mass importation financially non-viable to those that do it.

Well said! :)
 

Tom

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Me too...

Anybody know how to get a hold of -Ryan- in NY. He's a buddy of mine. I PMd him and emailed too, but no response yet. He's producing a fair amount of russian babies every year. His input would be very valuable here.
 

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I am getting a 1.3 group next week and will probably winter them in the garage although our temps don't get very low here. I want to breed them for those very reasons: I want to try to undermine the wild caught industry. My husband has a 1.2 group and we have witnessed the male mounting the females, but we haven't had eggs yet (we don't believe the females were receptive and we don't think he was sexually mature yet). I read your earlier posts about mild springs, so we're going to try to introduce higher temps in the spring to see if that gets them going.

I have another male that is hiding in our yard at present and I'm hoping the rain this week will drive him out. I'd like to add him to my group after quarantine because I've also read that adding competition can stimulate breeding behavior.

I'm also very interested in hearing what has worked for other people, especially in areas like southern California.
 

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Renee, I would love to hear how that works out for you guys in the spring. Please keep us posted.

I also got a chuckle from your post. :) What you call "hiding in our yard" some people call "lost" and it sends them into an absolute panic.
 

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Oh, I freaked out at first. But we have a three-tiered yard on the side of a hill and the bottom tier is submerged and retained, which is why we keep our tortoises on that level. I don't rule out his growing wings, because he's a Russian, but it's really unlikely he got out of our yard. I know from my husband's Russians that just because we can't find him, it doesn't mean he's not there. We've lost his IN THEIR ENCLOSURE under just a few inches of dirt. So, I'm not happy about it, but I'm figuring he's just being a Russian, the ungrateful booger (this is the one I saved from the 20 gallon tank and the parrot beak).
 

GBtortoises

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Renee-Just in case you ever wanted to dive into Testudo species even more so (Herman's, Marginateds and all the Greeks). San Diego weather is excellent breeding weather for them! Much more so than for the Russians.
 

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I'm thinking Marginateds eventually (your guy is on the truck for delivery and will be here any minute). We're stopping here for the time being, except for maybe another Russian female or two for the hubby's group, but I definitely see Marginateds in the future.

When my daughter goes off to college in 8-9 years we will probably move somewhere more rural. My father-in-law lives in Pearblossom. Tom probably knows it. I doubt we'll go THAT rural but we may end up somewhere near there. It's desert.
 

Tom

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Yeah, that's about 40 minutes North of me. It is even more "desert" than my area.
 

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jeffbens0n said:
Does anyone have any breeding success without hibernating?

I do and I know my friend Shelly Jones in Lincoln, NE also is starting to do less and less hibernating and yet gets a lot of hatchlings. She use to hibernate all of hers inside in the fridge (perhaps you read her article about it?). After having a couple of losses from things associated or a result of hibernation, she has decided to try the non-hibernating route.
 

Tom

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Details. We need details. Share the secrets. What are you guys doing differently to get your results?
 

-ryan-

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jeffbens0n said:
Does anyone have any breeding success without hibernating?

I'm a late comer to the thread (was on vacation in myrtle beach!).

I hatch and sell dozens of russians each year. My tortoises are effectively indoors all of the time. At my old house I had an outdoor enclosure that I would put them out in during the summer months when we were around to supervise, but this year at my new house I didn't yet get a chance to build new outdoor enclosures, so they've been indoors all year.

Here's how I keep them: 1 male and 4 females in an enclosure measuring 8'x4' with 12" tall walls and a wood top except for the aluminum grates that the heat lamps set on. two concrete mixing bins measuring 3'x2'x8" are sunk into the floor and filled with standard issue top soil (the same soil has been in use since '06 with only about 4-5 bags added). Two 45 watt halogen bulbs are mounted above each bin. Every other day they get a tray measuring 24"x18" of fresh greens with calcium and d3. I take them out and plop them in an inch of water while I clean the enclosure realistically about twice a month, though I try to do it weekly. Their year-round light cycle is lights go on around 6:30 or 7am, and go off a little after 8pm. The lights plug into wall outlets on a dedicated circuit with a hardwired timer.

That is it. Each female lays a clutch of 2-4 eggs every 2-3 months with the exception of one who is a little younger. On average I have about a 75% hatch rate, but that is simply due to the fact that I don't always have the incubator dialed in correctly (it's easy to get busy working on something else and the incubator gets too dry for a period long enough to effect hatch rates).

I don't do anything intentional to breed them. I have never hibernated the tortoises. During the winter months each tortoise will usually disappear into the dirt for a period of a week to a month and then emerge, so something about the variance of heat/light in the reptile room tells them it is winter, but I do nothing to effect this.

Essentially, it has been my experience that a lack of tinkering produces the best results. The simpler the better. Make sure they have dirt directly underneath basking areas which allows for 6-10" of digging (once they hit the bottom they will stop digging and refuse to lay eggs, and they do go deep), and females will have much higher success rates if they are large. My best breeder is over 8" scl and weighs in at about 3 pounds. My male is under 5" and usually about a pound.

That's just my 2 cents based on my experience keeping and breeding them indoors. Outdoors I imagine, assuming the climate is acceptable, you could just build them a pen and let them do their thing.

GeoTerraTestudo said:
Looks like there are a couple of commercial breeders with baby Russian tortoises:

In Arizona: http://www.arizonatortoisecompound.com/Russian-tortoises/
In Florida: http://turtleshack.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=88_89&products_id=464

If they have baby Russian tortoises, then they must be captive-breeding their own, right?

Not necessarily, but they may. I sell 95% of my tortoises wholesale to dealers.
 

Tom

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I don't know about the people in FL. They could be breeders OR brokers, but ATC is Mick, here on our forum. I'll PM him and ask him to join in.
 
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