Newbie from Oklahoma saying hi and looking for advice!

SLRay

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Sep 12, 2019
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Oklahoma City
Hello all!

So nice to be here! I'm new to the forum scene, but I want to give this a go since I'm having a hard time pinning down what kind of tortoise is a perfect fit for my current situation. My name is Shauna, I'm 26, a Computer Science student, and have a home here in Oklahoma City with my husband and 3 month old son - plus all my animal babies! I have 3 dogs, a hedgehog, a red eared slider, and loads of fish! I've been researching into getting a tortoise for some time because my husband adores them, I love any living thing, and I have an unused section of my backyard that I believe would be fantastic for a tortoise (I hope!).

Nothing makes me happier than learning how to give optimal care to animals, so I'm looking for advice before I commit to purchase a new lifelong (or probably longer) friend! So here are my questions, sectioned off by topic of concern. Hopefully I can get some insight to help me in my search!

--CLIMATE--
Like I said, I live in Oklahoma, so from my research, I believe a type of Mediterranean tortoise, like a Hermanns or Russian, is the best fit for my climate. Their smaller size is also a bonus, especially in the case that I need to bring them inside due to inclement weather (not just winter - but hello tornado season!). Though the small size is convenient for those bad weather situations, I really would love a medium sized tortoise, like the size of a Redfoot or Elongated, but I'm not sure I could currently manage to bring a tortoise of that size indoors in our current house. We plan on moving once I'm out of school and working in about 2 years, though, so that wouldn't be a problem for long, but the tortoise will have to endure this enclosure until then. It seems like the Mediterraneans would just do better in cold snaps here or could potentially hibernate during the winter - though I haven't done enough research to say that I would let the tortoise do that. I have a hedgehog, so I have the idea of hibernation associated with death in captivity! I would much prefer to leave the tortoise outside year-round, regardless of weather or type of tortoise. Is that possible, if they're given a safe, sturdy, insulated burrow or shelter?

--HOUSING--
My personal ideal is to house the tortoise outside year-round. The area of my backyard is roughly 6 foot wide and spans the length of the house, excluding the garage - I haven't been able to measure it accurately by myself yet, but it's very long! Picture attached. It's not the space I'm worried about, so much as the shade. As you can see in the picture, there's only a section of sunlight that passes through, from the right of the picture to the left, as the sun moves across the sky. Being a narrow space between the house and the fence, it never gets full sun. It's completely shaded in the morning and evening. Is this sort of situation adequate for ANY tortoise? Oklahoma is abundant in heat for most of the year (it's mid-September and we're still in the 90's, dipping into the 70's at night), but I'm not sure if all this shade is an issue. I don't want to purchase a tortoise only for it to be miserable in the shade or not get enough UVB. I have a red eared slider, so I'm familiar with their need to bask, but I'm by no means knowledgeable enough with tortoises and all of their subspecies! Also, all this shade means that this area probably takes longer to dry out after rain/snow/ice than the rest of the yard.
My plan for the enclosure is to dig a 12" trench around the perimeter (excluding the house side because there is deep concrete) to bury 2x4's to prevent a digging escape, construct an insulated, elevated cinder block burrow, plant tortoise-safe plants that can thrive in full shade, include a type of gate to allow easy access and let the tortoise roam into the backyard while I am outside supervising, and bury a watering hole, size based on which tortoise I choose. There will, of course, be extra hides and enrichment based on the tortoise's size and needs.

Y'all are amazing for even getting this far - I'm long winded and want to make sure I'm making the right decision!
A HUGE thank you for any help, advice, or tortoise wisdom! I'll take all the information you want to give (including links!) I'm an open book here, and eager to learn! Talk to you soon!

--TLDR; PERSONAL WANTS--
--THESE DON'T HAVE TO BE SATISFIED, I'M MORE INTERESTED IN MAKING A GREAT HOME FOR A GREAT ANIMAL--
  • A medium sized tortoise (but a small tortoise is fine)
  • Can be kept outdoors year-round, temperatures average in the 70s-90s most of the year and it's quite dry
  • Will thrive in a mostly shaded outdoor enclosure with supervised time in the sunny backyard, weather permitting
  • Only one tortoise - no intention of breeding or giving it "a friend"

 

ZEROPILOT

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Welcome from tropical southern Florida.
A great place to keep Redfoot tortoises.
You need something that stays on the small side and likes things more arid. Like maybe a Russian tortoise.
Hopefully someone with more experience can help you narrow your search.
 

SLRay

New Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2019
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Oklahoma City
Welcome from tropical southern Florida.
A great place to keep Redfoot tortoises.
You need something that stays on the small side and likes things more arid. Like maybe a Russian tortoise.
Hopefully someone with more experience can help you narrow your search.
Thanks for your quick reply! I was definitely thinking that a Russian was the best fit. I'd personally like a bigger tortoise, but I think a Russian would really enjoy himself here, so that makes me happy! I've seen so many Floridians talking about tortoises - that state must be just perfect tortoise keeping weather!
 

ZEROPILOT

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Thanks for your quick reply! I was definitely thinking that a Russian was the best fit. I'd personally like a bigger tortoise, but I think a Russian would really enjoy himself here, so that makes me happy! I've seen so many Floridians talking about tortoises - that state must be just perfect tortoise keeping weather!
It us.
Though we often take that for granted.
 

SweetGreekTorts

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Based on what you're looking for and what you plan to provide, I would definitely recommend a Russian Tortoise. They are hardy and can handle a wider range of cooler and warmer temperatures. Easy to care for and a great tortoise for beginners. An adult male is about 6" and females aren't much larger (8-10"), so they don't get big.

One important thing to mention: I would not recommend getting 2, as Russians are territorial and will see each other as competition for food, basking, etc, and they can fight! They are perfectly happy being the only spoiled pet. Just in case you might consider getting another in the future.
 

MPappagallo

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I think a russian would be a great choice as well. Although they do not get really large, they are filled with personality, and will do well in your temperature situation. If you plan to leave him/her outside through the winter, he will need plenty of substrate that he can dig himself into to stay warm....so that will be something to consider. Otherwise, you can buy a large plastic tote box (like Christmas trees are stored in) and bring him inside for the winter temporarily. That would also be a handy option for tornado season as well.
 

SLRay

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Location (City and/or State)
Oklahoma City
I think a russian would be a great choice as well. Although they do not get really large, they are filled with personality, and will do well in your temperature situation. If you plan to leave him/her outside through the winter, he will need plenty of substrate that he can dig himself into to stay warm....so that will be something to consider. Otherwise, you can buy a large plastic tote box (like Christmas trees are stored in) and bring him inside for the winter temporarily. That would also be a handy option for tornado season as well.

Awesome!! It seems like a Russian is the general consensus, which is great to know! Thank you for your advice on the temporary housing - that definitely sounds doable. Plus I'd feel more comfortable knowing he's safe and warm inside and not getting blown away by high winds like a little frisbee! I plan on building an above ground burrow - would stuffing some substrate in there be a good idea, even during other times of the year, like summer? I know Russians like to dig and cozy themselves up in the dirt!
 

SLRay

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Based on what you're looking for and what you plan to provide, I would definitely recommend a Russian Tortoise. They are hardy and can handle a wider range of cooler and warmer temperatures. Easy to care for and a great tortoise for beginners. An adult male is about 6" and females aren't much larger (8-10"), so they don't get big.

One important thing to mention: I would not recommend getting 2, as Russians are territorial and will see each other as competition for food, basking, etc, and they can fight! They are perfectly happy being the only spoiled pet. Just in case you might consider getting another in the future.
Thanks for the advice! That's perfect that they're good for beginners. I love making my pets happy, and I think I could do that with a Russian! I was only worried about the size because I feel like they're more likely to escape because they're small. An unfounded fear, I guess, especially since I'll be taking extra precaution, but y'all are giving me more confidence!

I was only wanting one - plus I've seen some horror stories of tortoises hurting and fighting each other, so I sure don't want to risk that!!! I prefer to spoil my pets anyway :)
 

Yvonne G

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Your side yard is the ideal place for a tortoise, however, Russians don't eat much grass, preferring the broad-leaf weeds and plants. You'll be having to 'mow' that section all the time if you want to be able to actually ever see your Russsian tortoise. Whatever you put in there, he'll need several different hiding places, a few plants to make it feel safer and less open, a feeding tile/slate/concrete and a waterer that's sunk down into the ground.
 

MPappagallo

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Awesome!! It seems like a Russian is the general consensus, which is great to know! Thank you for your advice on the temporary housing - that definitely sounds doable. Plus I'd feel more comfortable knowing he's safe and warm inside and not getting blown away by high winds like a little frisbee! I plan on building an above ground burrow - would stuffing some substrate in there be a good idea, even during other times of the year, like summer? I know Russians like to dig and cozy themselves up in the dirt!
He should be fine as long as he has somewhere to escape the heat and cold. My Russian loves digging and burrowing, and will spend part of every day burrowed into the substrate in his enclosure. I use a mix of cypress mulch and orchid bark from Lowes.
 

SLRay

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Your side yard is the ideal place for a tortoise, however, Russians don't eat much grass, preferring the broad-leaf weeds and plants. You'll be having to 'mow' that section all the time if you want to be able to actually ever see your Russsian tortoise. Whatever you put in there, he'll need several different hiding places, a few plants to make it feel safer and less open, a feeding tile/slate/concrete and a waterer that's sunk down into the ground.
That's excellent info, thank you! I was really worried about how shady it is over there, so I appreciate your reply! Do Russians need to lay out and bask in the sunshine, or do they just need the heat? I'll definitely post an update picture of the enclosure once I have it all ready to go!
 

SLRay

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He should be fine as long as he has somewhere to escape the heat and cold. My Russian loves digging and burrowing, and will spend part of every day burrowed into the substrate in his enclosure. I use a mix of cypress mulch and orchid bark from Lowes.
Oh, ok! Awesome! I thought "substrate" meant something bought from a pet store, I didn't consider mulches. That's great to know, thanks!
 

MPappagallo

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Oh, ok! Awesome! I thought "substrate" meant something bought from a pet store, I didn't consider mulches. That's great to know, thanks!
No problem! Just be sure not to use any that are cedar or have artificial coloring. :) Cypress is the most common one used.....and orchid bark can be used as well. For my outdoor enclosures, I use a mix of the two.
 

Yvonne G

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That's excellent info, thank you! I was really worried about how shady it is over there, so I appreciate your reply! Do Russians need to lay out and bask in the sunshine, or do they just need the heat? I'll definitely post an update picture of the enclosure once I have it all ready to go!
Mine usually come out as soon as the sun hits their yard in the a.m. and they line up against the fence that the sun shines on. Once they've warmed up, they never 'bask' again that day (too hot here).
 

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