Russian Tortoise Outdoor Enclosure Questions - Burrowing and Temperature

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gecko1

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Hello!

I have an adult Russian tortoise named Oscar. He is a "rescue" from my friend's brother who wasn't really caring for him. About a year ago, when I got Oscar, he was ill and wouldn't eat. I kept him very warm and gave his cage a total make-over based on internet and book research. For a year Oscar has been doing great.

I would love to get Oscar living outdoors in the summer. The winters here are too wet. I have an area in our garden between three concrete walls (tall) and one ground-level wooden retaining wall. This is the perfect spot for him. My dad says Oscar would burrow 2 or 3 feet down into the soil, and even though he can't dig out, he could get so deep we'd never find him. He might start to hibernate, or estivate, and we wouldn't be able to find him. And we wouldn't know if he had escaped or just borrowed. Help with this problem?

Also, the summer temperatures are around 75-80 in daytime, 70-75 at night. Many days reach 80-85. Some even reach 90-95. Don't Russians need 95 degree basking spots? Would I need to bring a heat-lamp outside for him, and is this safe?

Finally, is it worth it to have Oscar outside when he could escape, flip himself in the sun and dry out, or be eaten by a wild animal? Just for the benefits of fresh air and sunlight?

THANKS so much for any help!
gecko1 and Oscar
 

RTfanatic

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If they have places to hide and a house/box they can sleep in with a little timothy hay or similar they probably won't dig anywhere near that deep unless the temperatures get really low. I tend to let mine outside in temperatures no lower than 60 degrees in the morning and they've never dug deeper than they top of their shell even if I'm late bringing them in (and they've settled in for the night under a plant or something.

If you're worried about some of those things just bring him in at night so he has the benefits of the daylight without the risks.
 

Crazy1

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gecko1, Will he have direct sunlight with the three tall walls? If so that will give him his basking area. You could also dig up the area and place chicken wire down about a foot deep then cover it back up with dirt so he could not dig too deep.
 

Jacqui

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I may have the laziest group of Russians, but mine never dig tunnels outside. They do dig shallow pits under plants, logs, and the like, but you can always see the end of a leg or whatever. You have been told you could put wire under or I have it buried into the ground along the walls, so they can dig out.

Placing a lid on top gives you freedom of worry that something would come along and get your tort or that he will climb out.

Weather gets too cool, then bring him back inside. Too hot, once more you can bring him in, but normally with having water to soak in, shade and spraying the pen with water, it normally works for them.

In my humble opinion, yes even for a few precious hours of sunlight it's worth the added cost and work to provide an outside pen.

Where do you live?
 

gecko1

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Thanks! Basking sun temp?

Thanks so much for all your advice! It was really helpful.

Yes, there is direct sunlight in the enclosure. It is south-facing and used to be a vegetable garden with lots of sunlight. It might even be too sunny, so we'd have to create shade. If the thermometer reads 75-85 degrees in the sun, would that be too cool or a good temp?

I live in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Thanks again everyone!
gecko1 :)
 
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