Hibernation Help and Advice

KVN

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2017
Messages
1
Location (City and/or State)
Orange County, CA
Hello all,

I am in Orange County, California. We have a found a desert tortoise walking along the sidewalk back in July. The kids decided they wanted to keep it. After reading up on DTs, we went to a Tortoise Club meeting and received a permit for her. The members guessed that our DT is roughly 7 years old. We took to her to Dr. Greek in Yorba Linda and had her checked out. She was given a clean bill of health.

Long story short, Nobu started to get sluggish and eat less near the end of September. She has the run of our backyard. She has several hides throughout the yard under tall grass. She started coming out less. We would sometimes not see her for several days.

October 9th comes along and we had to evacuate due to the Canyon Fire 2. She actually came out that day around 10am (which is early for her). We boarded her at Dr. Greek's while we were evacuated. We picked her up 2 days later when we were allowed back home We brought her to the backyard. She refused any water and took one bite of her food. She then proceeded to go into her outdoor burrow structure I had built based on the design and recommendation of the president of the Valley Chapter of the CTTC . He told us it is a suitable outside burrow to hibernate her. She's been in there ever since. We were not expecting her to hibernate so soon! It wasn't even that cold yet when she started to slow down.

So we didn't get a chance weigh her as suggested here. We got worried during the heat wave October 22-27 when her burrow temp reached mid 80's since outside was in the 100's. We check on her periodically. Sometimes her head is out and sometimes it's not. Her burrow temp now averages 63-67 with humidity level in the mid 50's now that outside temp range from low 70's to upper 40s. The substrate in her den is a mix of orchid bark, dirt and straw. She has burrowed to the floor of the den with the substrate all around her (she is surrounded by 6-7 inches of substrate.

So we are unsure what to do. The temp is too high? for her to maintain a low enough metabolism according to the articles I've read here and elsewhere. Should we take her out and try to offer her water? Should I spray some water into the substrate to increase the humiditiy? Buying a refrigerator to hibernate her is not an attractive option for us. I don't think our closet gets that cold here in Southern California.

Thanks in advance for any advice. It's stressing us out.

Here is a picture of the burrow. There is now a thin plexiglass door on at the opening to prevent any uninvited critters while she is hibernating. We were in the midst of redoing our backyard. We are now redoing it with desert plants and wildflowers (planting this month) per our consultation at the Thomas Payne foundation.

IMG_2463.JPG
 

Kenno

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2014
Messages
254
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello all,

I am in Orange County, California. We have a found a desert tortoise walking along the sidewalk back in July. The kids decided they wanted to keep it. After reading up on DTs, we went to a Tortoise Club meeting and received a permit for her. The members guessed that our DT is roughly 7 years old. We took to her to Dr. Greek in Yorba Linda and had her checked out. She was given a clean bill of health.

Long story short, Nobu started to get sluggish and eat less near the end of September. She has the run of our backyard. She has several hides throughout the yard under tall grass. She started coming out less. We would sometimes not see her for several days.

October 9th comes along and we had to evacuate due to the Canyon Fire 2. She actually came out that day around 10am (which is early for her). We boarded her at Dr. Greek's while we were evacuated. We picked her up 2 days later when we were allowed back home We brought her to the backyard. She refused any water and took one bite of her food. She then proceeded to go into her outdoor burrow structure I had built based on the design and recommendation of the president of the Valley Chapter of the CTTC . He told us it is a suitable outside burrow to hibernate her. She's been in there ever since. We were not expecting her to hibernate so soon! It wasn't even that cold yet when she started to slow down.

So we didn't get a chance weigh her as suggested here. We got worried during the heat wave October 22-27 when her burrow temp reached mid 80's since outside was in the 100's. We check on her periodically. Sometimes her head is out and sometimes it's not. Her burrow temp now averages 63-67 with humidity level in the mid 50's now that outside temp range from low 70's to upper 40s. The substrate in her den is a mix of orchid bark, dirt and straw. She has burrowed to the floor of the den with the substrate all around her (she is surrounded by 6-7 inches of substrate.

So we are unsure what to do. The temp is too high? for her to maintain a low enough metabolism according to the articles I've read here and elsewhere. Should we take her out and try to offer her water? Should I spray some water into the substrate to increase the humiditiy? Buying a refrigerator to hibernate her is not an attractive option for us. I don't think our closet gets that cold here in Southern California.

Thanks in advance for any advice. It's stressing us out.

Here is a picture of the burrow. There is now a thin plexiglass door on at the opening to prevent any uninvited critters while she is hibernating. We were in the midst of redoing our backyard. We are now redoing it with desert plants and wildflowers (planting this month) per our consultation at the Thomas Payne foundation.

View attachment 221824

I'm on the northwestern edge of OC. Nobu's behavior sounds just right for a desert tort going into hibernation in our area. You might get a lot of advice here on the forum, but Dr. Greek is Nobu's vet and you can get any advice you need from him.
I have one old desert tort who has been hibernating since October 5th, right through the heat. My other one is still fighting the long sleep, but today he only put his butt out into the sun for a couple hours and then crawled back to a corner of his enclosure.
I will see them both again in March or April.
 

orv

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Joined
Apr 24, 2014
Messages
392
Location (City and/or State)
Aguanga, CA
California Desert Tortoises are individuals, each of them behaves as their biological clocks say. Hey, my wife is freezing and I'm perspiring. . . what can I say. We have four CDTs, three females and a male. Two of the ladies have been hiding for a couple of weeks now while the male and one of the girls spend four or five hours a day sunning themselves. They nibble on some grass or perhaps a bit of pumpkin, but they aren't eating much. A week ago we had temps nearing a hundred degrees, while this week we're just touching seventy. Soon they'll all be sleeping in their boroughs until sometime in February. We reside in the high desert of Aguanga. Buy the way, I'd suggest leaving a way for your tortoise to exit his borough at his own leisure. You never know when he'll want to take a stretch and perhaps get a drink. You're doing all the right things, now sit back and enjoy.
 

ascott

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Apr 10, 2011
Messages
16,147
Location (City and/or State)
Apple Valley, California
I personally would not encourage this tortoise to brumate this year....

You say you found the tort July, less than appropriate time to get truly familiar time to get to know the tort...you also don't know it's backstory such as food consumption, water intake, buy more importantly you don't know how it's level has stress before you was...

I also see an issue with the tort still getting acclimated to its new surroundings, then being abruptly moved to another unfamiliar place as a result of the fire...and of course the necessary thing to have done...but now let's overview..

Displaced tortoise discovered 4 months ago, taken for car ride to new vets, new yard space set up for tortoise, crazy fire creates another reason for tort to be disrupted, back into car, left again in unfamiliar surrounding at vets, brought back to the yard..which is still new...all the while july and August is feeding frenzy time then closing in on what is the natural slow down start leading into end of Sept moving into Oct...this is average time to see the steps occuring to help support the best outcome odds of brumation. Keep in mind, stress is a huge health ding for such a private creature. A tortoise under stress does not generally have red flag symptoms, but is a rather brilliant creature of disguise, until things progress to an unhealthy state.

In my opinion, based on what you shared. I would try to encourage the tort to remain active during the winter months in an indoor temp winter enclosure that is heated and set up for artificial day light, water and food being offered. I understand that is a huge task into itself when dealing with a species that has a strong draw to follow nature's protocol..so as a fallback I also would personally consider to set this tort up in an indoor area where you can facilitate a rest that will allow you to keep a watchful, not pestering, eye on your new roommate. I personally would find the darkest, quietest, coolest --not freezing--location in a back room closet. This should be a place the tortoise can fully rest without being bumped or shuffled about...I would set up a tall sided Rubbermaid tote that is big enough for said tort to not be able to walk about in, but enough room for tort to completely splay out all limbs and head if so wishes as well as do a complete slow directional spin as tort sleeps. I would place an old pair of heavy jeans or cotton towel, folded to completely cover the bottom of the tote... I would prefer tile, wood, concrete as the flooring in whatever closet you pick versus carpet...I would then place a piece of cardboard between the tote bottom and cool floor spot unless the flooring is indeed carpet under the tote...place the tote in it's spot....then add tortoise...close up the closet and plan to check in on tort, visually, in about a week. Then do the checks once a week for the next few weeks....after a couple weeks I would do a foot tickle, tickle a back foot and what you are wanting to hear is a slower smooth, clear breath of air...what some describe as a hiss...that same sound. If for some reason you get a wet gargle sound, that tort should be woken up, placed into temp winter indoor enclosure for warm up and forced to remain awake for winter.

The brumation process is essential to this species of tortoise, the same importance as air, water, food, shelter is...brumation is a way for some species to recoup and rest from the up season...it is an essential part of their design....this species is designed to live in some of the harshest unforgiving environments...all of it's make up is designed to balance for survival. So while we can bring them into our yards when they become displaced, we should not try to recreate their design, but rather facilitate the tort with what it needs to have a greater chance at a successful life in captivity.

Stress can be a huge issue, stress is silent and can create problems.

And hey, this species is a bad *** little gladiator...some folks would just toss care into the wind and let come of it what may. There is a chance if you do nothing further with the tort just as he is, there is always the chance it will live. But personally, I like to bump odds a bit and would only do this last thing, and have had to a couple of times, in an extreme situation where I did not have a choice.

Oh and apology for the mini series length post...lil...i have learned the devil's in the details...

Do you have a pic of the tort? For fun, live seeing them
 

Yvonne G

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This is a great post by Ascott. I totally agree with everything she's told you. don't let him hibernate this winter.
 

RosemaryDW

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Hi KVN,

We are also in Orange County and Dr. Greek is our vet as well—for our Russian.

You’ve gotten feedback from several very experieced members. Because Dr. Greek grew up in Anaheim and raised desert tortoises there growing up; personally I’d rely upon his advice based on the combination of medical and neighborhood experience, in addition to having given your tortoise a recent checkup and a later boarding.

I like Ascott’s advice on monitored brumation as well but I’m wondering about how it would work in Orange County. You are right, a closet here is never going to get to fifty degrees; our garage will rarely get that cold. @ascott, how cold do you think a “cool” room should be for a DT? I know it doesn’t need to be as cold as Russians need it.
 
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