Hibernation Help Needed!

CourtsTorts

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Hi Folks,

I have 2 Russian tort girls that I got in early summer. They lived outside all summer and were happy and healthy. I decided since it was my first year with them, I would not hibernate them this winter. We built a tortoise table with a 100 degree basking spot and a UV bulb and brought them inside when it got cold. Despite the setup which I think was correct, once the fall weather really set in, both girls burrowed into their soil and stopped eating. I tried raising temps, I tried soaks, I tried leaving lights on longer... not much improvement.

So I felt forced to hibernate them. I got a mini-fridge and thermometer. Temps are ranging from 39-42 degrees F. I put the girls each inside a small box with shredded paper and then put that inside a larger box with shredded paper. They each have a thermometer inside their box too. The boxes keep them warmer and are staying around 42-47 degrees F.

Here's my issue: I can hear one of them scratching in their boxes inside the fridge. Like once or twice daily. After 8 days in the fridge, I opened their boxes last night and weighed them (their weight was fine). I read this would not disturb them but both torts opened their eyes and slowly moved during weighing and re-boxing. Is this normal? Also, one of the torts had scratched holes through her inner box! Is this normal?

I am afraid I am doing something wrong and feel guilty like I have buried them alive. Not sure what to do.

Suggestions?
 

MichaelL

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Hi Folks,

I have 2 Russian tort girls that I got in early summer. They lived outside all summer and were happy and healthy. I decided since it was my first year with them, I would not hibernate them this winter. We built a tortoise table with a 100 degree basking spot and a UV bulb and brought them inside when it got cold. Despite the setup which I think was correct, once the fall weather really set in, both girls burrowed into their soil and stopped eating. I tried raising temps, I tried soaks, I tried leaving lights on longer... not much improvement.

So I felt forced to hibernate them. I got a mini-fridge and thermometer. Temps are ranging from 39-42 degrees F. I put the girls each inside a small box with shredded paper and then put that inside a larger box with shredded paper. They each have a thermometer inside their box too. The boxes keep them warmer and are staying around 42-47 degrees F.

Here's my issue: I can hear one of them scratching in their boxes inside the fridge. Like once or twice daily. After 8 days in the fridge, I opened their boxes last night and weighed them (their weight was fine). I read this would not disturb them but both torts opened their eyes and slowly moved during weighing and re-boxing. Is this normal? Also, one of the torts had scratched holes through her inner box! Is this normal?

I am afraid I am doing something wrong and feel guilty like I have buried them alive. Not sure what to do.

Suggestions?
Did you make sure they had absolutely NO food in their gut, and did you soak them daily for two weeks prior to hibernation.?
 

MichaelL

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Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
934
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
Hi Folks,

I have 2 Russian tort girls that I got in early summer. They lived outside all summer and were happy and healthy. I decided since it was my first year with them, I would not hibernate them this winter. We built a tortoise table with a 100 degree basking spot and a UV bulb and brought them inside when it got cold. Despite the setup which I think was correct, once the fall weather really set in, both girls burrowed into their soil and stopped eating. I tried raising temps, I tried soaks, I tried leaving lights on longer... not much improvement.

So I felt forced to hibernate them. I got a mini-fridge and thermometer. Temps are ranging from 39-42 degrees F. I put the girls each inside a small box with shredded paper and then put that inside a larger box with shredded paper. They each have a thermometer inside their box too. The boxes keep them warmer and are staying around 42-47 degrees F.

Here's my issue: I can hear one of them scratching in their boxes inside the fridge. Like once or twice daily. After 8 days in the fridge, I opened their boxes last night and weighed them (their weight was fine). I read this would not disturb them but both torts opened their eyes and slowly moved during weighing and re-boxing. Is this normal? Also, one of the torts had scratched holes through her inner box! Is this normal?

I am afraid I am doing something wrong and feel guilty like I have buried them alive. Not sure what to do.

Suggestions?
I'm not an expert on hibernation (I've never hibernated mine) but I've read that they should have settled in after a few days. Try using organic topsoil so they can dig and settle in better. That's just my thoughts, though. Hopefully someone who has experienced this or has hibernated their tortoises for years will be able to answer.
 

Tom

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Yes, they haven’t eaten in weeks and I had been soaking them 4x week. Thanks!
This is good.

Russians need it a bit colder than most other species if you want them to be inactive during hibernation. I found the magic number in my fridge to be about 39 F. Just keep it above freezing and allow enough of a safety margin for whatever your fridge does. I'd be comfortable with the consistency of my fridge to go down as low as 36. At 47, you can expect more scratching.
 

RosemaryDW

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Agree with Tom on colder. Mine is pretty active at 44 degrees. In fact she dug through two boxes before we got her good and cold. :/

Totally normal for them to be aware when they are touched. Tortoise brumation is not like hibernation, they are alert, just very slowed down.
 

DARKFIRE007

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If you feel someone lurking around this thread it's me spying on the replies because I'm terrified of trying this and having to tell people I froze a pet.
 

RosemaryDW

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Update to say she has now dug through two very heavy canvas bags that we tried after cardboard.

Came home tonight to find a back leg poking out of the bag AGAIN. Packed her back in, came out twenty minutes later to find her head sticking out of the hole where the leg had been, eyes fully open. All of this at forty degrees.

New metal reinforced wood box comes tonight, thank goodness.
 

CourtsTorts

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Update to say she has now dug through two very heavy canvas bags that we tried after cardboard.

Came home tonight to find a back leg poking out of the bag AGAIN. Packed her back in, came out twenty minutes later to find her head sticking out of the hole where the leg had been, eyes fully open. All of this at forty degrees.

New metal reinforced wood box comes tonight, thank goodness.
Oh boy! You’ve got a persistent little one on your hands. Any thoughts on plastic tubs inside the fridge? They would be scratch proof but it doesn’t seem like many do that so wondering if there is a downside?
 

RosemaryDW

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Oh boy! You’ve got a persistent little one on your hands. Any thoughts on plastic tubs inside the fridge? They would be scratch proof but it doesn’t seem like many do that so wondering if there is a downside?

To be clear, she has her own fridge, just in case I didn’t mention it before.

We’ve used plastic tubs before and they are more or less escape proof but we noticed ours holding some condensation last year, which I’m not comfortable with.

You can reduce movement by using a box that has a smaller box-to-tortoise ratio or one that is narrow; it’s harder to move if you can’t turn around. But she’s large enough now where we couldn’t find a suitable narrow box; we would have had to put her in sideways!

Happy to say she has not broken out of the wood box yet. We dropped her temp down to 39. I’ll check her weight in a few days to be sure she didn’t work off too many calories in her jail break attempts.
 
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DARKFIRE007

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Why not use a box lined with metal wire mesh? They have it in small square sizes, I used it when I made my enclosure top and to prevent digging escape outdoors. Strong and dig proof. Just put a good 5 inches of substrate for burrowing.
 

RosemaryDW

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Why not use a box lined with metal wire mesh? They have it in small square sizes, I used it when I made my enclosure top and to prevent digging escape outdoors. Strong and dig proof. Just put a good 5 inches of substrate for burrowing.

Good idea but I think we've finally got her contained.
 
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