Sulcata Burrows

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Tom

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We talk about it briefly once in a while. Usually in reference to how to prevent it. I decided to try it out a little this summer. The temps here during summer somewhat mimic the natural conditions in the parts of Africa where sulcatas occur. I dug out a little starter hole in an area where Daisy, my juvenile female had tried to dig before. She didn't touch it for about 10 days. Then one Sunday she dug around 8' without me even noticing until the next morning. Her starter hole was on a hillside, facing into the hillside. For some reason she dug in and turned downhill and followed the contour of the hillside. This left only a few inches of dirt over her for the entire run of her burrow. Well the next afternoon, the big girls discovered her little project and decided it should be big enough to fit them too. Basically, for the next few days at least one of the females was working on this hole if the sun was up. Because Daisy dug it so shallow and followed the hillside down, instead of digging into it, they basically wrecked her whole burrow, removed a major portion of the hillside and then started digging into it. There was too much damage to the hillside, so I filled it all in and covered the area to stop them digging there. This attempt was a no go. Sorry. I didn't get any pics of this one.

At the same time I started that hole, I started another one down in the new section of the enclosure seen here:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Enclosure-Expansion?highlight=Enclosure+Expansion#axzz20lK6by00

I only dug out about a one foot deep depression. They all ignored this hole for around three weeks. Then a few days ago I happened to notice the tell tale dirt flicking, and Bert was way down in the hole digging away. Big Bertha soon joined him. I'm estimating they got 6-8' deep just in that first afternoon. The two of them are sleeping in this hole at night and one or the other of them, or both are always in it excavating. For the first time tonight, they were both out of it and I could get in an sneak a pic. I only went in as far as my waist, and then reached as far as I could with my arm for a pic. I still can't tell how deep it goes, but I'm estimating 12' so far. They are constantly working on it and I intend to let them for the rest of the summer. I will get all the way in it soon and get temp, humidity and depth measurements too. The earth felt very damp and cool down there, but it was dry and 95 up top.

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These animals know how to do this and they know when to do it too. The starter hole was ignored until temps climbed from being steadily in the mid 80s for several weeks, straight up to 100+ recently. I am surprised that more of this does not go on, both at my place and everywhere else. This thread is intended to start some conversation about this subject. Comments are welcome. Sharing your own experiences or pics are welcome too. Another member started something similar a few weeks ago, but I can't seem to find it now. I'd love to post the link here, if someone can find it.
 

ascott

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Nothing so beautiful as a natural burrow....pure perfection in shape and design....imagine, one foot flip and another foot shove at a time...then they back it all the way back to the entrance.....I have one of the CDTs here that dug out his own burrow, he did it last summer and it was at 5 + feet and at a 40-45% angle...this year I believe he has only added maybe a foot or so....I would not destroy it...I figure I can always grab the spade shovel and dig him out if I needed to---they can be underground for a really long time before suffocating....also, I do cover the entrance when it begins to get close to brumating time so that he does not duck in there (as our winters are unpredictable and I have already had to dig him out in prior years when the flooding and freezing started).

He is the only one that has his own natural burrow ...although the old man Humphry put a heck of an effort into it...but where I have his yard has such compacted soil he could only get so far and I believe he is waiting for his nails to grow a bit more again before he resumes....lol...

The other two guys play around a bit...last year Haus was pissed at me when I covered his deep hide so he in a day he dug out a burrow up to about 3 feet and tried to hide in there...but after laying on my stomach and wiggling and cussing he finally was extracted....and Herman still does not realize he is a CDT....although he is showing signs...lol

by the way Tom, that is a beauty of a burrow start (I say start in consideration to the size of the workers...lol) :D
 

Eweezyfosheezy

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Mine always start burrows in the worst places (for me) I have had sulcatas digging under the house and into neighbors yards. I am obviously not worried about them digging out of my yard or anything like that but I'm worried there could be some damage done to fences or my house. I've actually dug little starter burrows in the ground and they blow it off for bigger and better things like by the fence or house. So I just stopped the burrows altogether. I just throw a hay bale where they start digging and that sure does **** them off lol.
 

Arizona Sulcata

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Looks great!! My Sulcatas don't burrow. I have a lot of bushes they go into to hide and cool down that I also spray down daily to keep moist and cool.
 

Tom

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Eweezyfosheezy said:
Mine always start burrows in the worst places (for me) I have had sulcatas digging under the house and into neighbors yards. I am obviously not worried about them digging out of my yard or anything like that but I'm worried there could be some damage done to fences or my house. I've actually dug little starter burrows in the ground and they blow it off for bigger and better things like by the fence or house. So I just stopped the burrows altogether. I just throw a hay bale where they start digging and that sure does **** them off lol.

Most of the time, this is what happens for me too. They always want to dig somewhere where a foundation will be undermined. That's why I tried to get them started right smack in the middle where "I" wanted them to dig. So far it has worked...

Arizona Sulcata said:
Looks great!! My Sulcatas don't burrow. I have a lot of bushes they go into to hide and cool down that I also spray down daily to keep moist and cool.

This surprises me, given your heat and your large amount of space for them... In the past mine seldom tried to burrow either though. I used to get a total of around two easily thwarted attempts per year out of all of mine.
 

wellington

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I love seeing that. It fascinates me how big they make them. However that is the reason I didn't get a sulcata. I visioned my house crumbling.
 

Zamric

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BURROWS!

I cut down a tree and had the stump ground down to 8" under the soil level JUST so I could put WalkingRocks Bunker on top of the existing root system (it was and Oak whos roots where upsetting the house foundation) hoping the roots would prevent him from burrowing to deep. So far they have prvented him from going down more than a foot or so and he has torn off 2 of his spurs in a constant attack on the root system.
 

mary t

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Tom said:
We talk about it briefly once in a while. Usually in reference to how to prevent it. I decided to try it out a little this summer. The temps here during summer somewhat mimic the natural conditions in the parts of Africa where sulcatas occur. I dug out a little starter hole in an area where Daisy, my juvenile female had tried to dig before. She didn't touch it for about 10 days. Then one Sunday she dug around 8' without me even noticing until the next morning. Her starter hole was on a hillside, facing into the hillside. For some reason she dug in and turned downhill and followed the contour of the hillside. This left only a few inches of dirt over her for the entire run of her burrow. Well the next afternoon, the big girls discovered her little project and decided it should be big enough to fit them too. Basically, for the next few days at least one of the females was working on this hole if the sun was up. Because Daisy dug it so shallow and followed the hillside down, instead of digging into it, they basically wrecked her whole burrow, removed a major portion of the hillside and then started digging into it. There was too much damage to the hillside, so I filled it all in and covered the area to stop them digging there. This attempt was a no go. Sorry. I didn't get any pics of this one.

At the same time I started that hole, I started another one down in the new section of the enclosure seen here:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Enclosure-Expansion?highlight=Enclosure+Expansion#axzz20lK6by00

I only dug out about a one foot deep depression. They all ignored this hole for around three weeks. Then a few days ago I happened to notice the tell tale dirt flicking, and Bert was way down in the hole digging away. Big Bertha soon joined him. I'm estimating they got 6-8' deep just in that first afternoon. The two of them are sleeping in this hole at night and one or the other of them, or both are always in it excavating. For the first time tonight, they were both out of it and I could get in an sneak a pic. I only went in as far as my waist, and then reached as far as I could with my arm for a pic. I still can't tell how deep it goes, but I'm estimating 12' so far. They are constantly working on it and I intend to let them for the rest of the summer. I will get all the way in it soon and get temp, humidity and depth measurements too. The earth felt very damp and cool down there, but it was dry and 95 up top.

These animals know how to do this and they know when to do it too. The starter hole was ignored until temps climbed from being steadily in the mid 80s for several weeks, straight up to 100+ recently. I am surprised that more of this does not go on, both at my place and everywhere else. This thread is intended to start some conversation about this subject. Comments are welcome. Sharing your own experiences or pics are welcome too. Another member started something similar a few weeks ago, but I can't seem to find it now. I'd love to post the link here, if someone can find it.

This is awesome. I vote you strap a go cam onto someone's back and take a " torts" eye view of what they see. On the other hand as much as I love Willie and try to make everything I can the best, I will pray he doesn't start digging further than the few mud traps he has started. I have one cranky neighbor that is already not to happy I have him...
 

Tom

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They would scrape a camera right off. They barely fit in there. :)

Your neighbor is upset that you have a silent, vegetation eating, little tortoise? Why on earth would that bother your neighbor? Tell him you are thinking of exchanging the tortoise for a pack of yippy little dogs and a rooster that will crow at sun up EVERY day. Even Sunday. Then watch how fast he falls in love with your tortoise...
 

Neal

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My worry would be the tunnel collapsing. Do you have a back hoe or something on sight to get them out quickly?
 

tortle

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Mine are only hatchlings so I was so proud of them when they dug a hole under their basking rock. Only one of them is really small enough to fit in there.



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mary t

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Tom said:
They would scrape a camera right off. They barely fit in there. :)

Your neighbor is upset that you have a silent, vegetation eating, little tortoise? Why on earth would that bother your neighbor? Tell him you are thinking of exchanging the tortoise for a pack of yippy little dogs and a rooster that will crow at sun up EVERY day. Even Sunday. Then watch how fast he falls in love with your tortoise...

My neighbor is a cranky old man in a bad marriage lol.. He NASA hippy dog already. He tried to tell me it was illegal to have Willie, when proved him wrong, he got upset with me, I think he has an issue with women.. They put up one of those ugly white plastic fences and as much as I hate the white monstrosity I got to spend more money on Willie habitat. He claims it smells, so I moved to composer closer to his side of the fence.. I keep telling my husband that we need a rooster ( which is illegal in the city limits) or a pot belly pig.. Just on a side note he is like 5'2" with a 6' white solid fence.... How does he know what I have in my backyard? I keep threatening to lay I my pool naked then he will be sorry for peeking!
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Kobe is still what I would consider a juvenile, presumably about 3 years of age, about 2 lbs and 8 inches shell length.

He doesn't dig much but I have noticed he really only digs when it rains, which I kinda find a little unusual. He spend a lot of time in the little brick shelter in the far corner of his pen (shown in this thread, closest to the hibiscus tree: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Outdoor-pen-for-juvenile-sulcata?page=2#axzz20nZlISl9) and only occasionally he camp out in the artificial burrow I dug for him (http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Artificial-burrow-for-outdoor-pen-Juvenile-sulcata#axzz20nZlISl9).

But when it rains and storms, he will ignore both the shelter and the existing burrow and go to the far corner closest to the house and start digging, and sometimes just sit there. And other times, he'll just come out in the open and sit, as if he loves the rain! In fact, this past weekend, I caught him out in a torrential downpour happily eating his greens...something I have never seen him do.

But yeah....back to the original topic...he seems to only dig during adverse weather.
 

motero

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I dug a 5x8 hole 4feet deep. Divided the interior into three parts each with its own half pipe tunnel entrance. Covered the top with railroad ties and dirt. I have a hatch in the roof for access. I only have to heat one space in the winter, heat is optional but i like them to stay more active. On a 110 degree day the burrow will climb up to 85. With out heat on a frosty night the burrow will get down to 45. I went this route for there comfort and for access to them. Don't be surprised when the weather changes and they don't come out for weeks at a time with a natural burrow. Use caution with this(don't drowned your tort) if you have to get them out turn a small trickle of water down the burrow, when they feel their toes get wet they will scoot out of there shortly.
 

JayMillz

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When I was stationed in Arkansas, really hot and humid in the summer, I had 3 pretty big sized bushes evenly spaced out in my back yard. And in-between each set of bushes I attached 2 pieces of plywood 3 x 6 feet together to form a triangle with the ground. There was 2 of them, 1 for each tort with a heat lamp in each for the cooler times. After a couple months I noticed they both preferred 1 of the shelters over the other even though they were virtually identical so I moved the heat lamp from the "vacant lot" over to the shelter they shared. The bushes blocked the wind on the entrances and the light from the heat lamps at night. Anyways they dug a pretty big burrow under that spot that I couldn't reach or see the end of either. That was the only one they made but that was the only full summer they really spent 100% outdoors either. When it rained though it flooded all the way to the top so when I moved in with my wife I made their new shelter on higher ground and they used it all the time but there was no burrow dug. Nothing really interesting honestly, just telling you the situation of mine making a burrow.
 

Tom

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motero said:
I dug a 5x8 hole 4feet deep. Divided the interior into three parts each with its own half pipe tunnel entrance. Covered the top with railroad ties and dirt. I have a hatch in the roof for access. I only have to heat one space in the winter, heat is optional but i like them to stay more active. On a 110 degree day the burrow will climb up to 85. With out heat on a frosty night the burrow will get down to 45. I went this route for there comfort and for access to them. Don't be surprised when the weather changes and they don't come out for weeks at a time with a natural burrow. Use caution with this(don't drowned your tort) if you have to get them out turn a small trickle of water down the burrow, when they feel their toes get wet they will scoot out of there shortly.

You've got to post a pic of this enclosure. Please.

It would actually have to RAIN here for the burrow to flood. :) Doesn't seem likely anytime soon.... Seriously though, they will only be using this until the end of summer, then I will fill it in or cover it and they will have to use their above ground heated house.

I discovered that water trick about a year ago... it really works. I'm not sure it would work on a cold tortoise though.
 

Tom

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Neal said:
My worry would be the tunnel collapsing. Do you have a back hoe or something on sight to get them out quickly?

I've given this a lot of thought. There is no denying that it is a risk. However, I think the soil where I am holds a burrow pretty well. Since it doesn't rain here during the warmer months, flooding and collapse due to flooding, is not much of a possibility.

Burrows are mentioned all throughout the "Crying Tortoise" book too. The author is clearly in awe of their burrowing ability. He states that a 60 kilogram tortoise can dig a burrow its own length in 3 minutes. In discussing collapse, he speculates that because of their strength and digging prowess, "...tortoises are able to emerge, and the collapse of a burrow probably never leads to the death of a buried animal."

I don't know Neal... It IS a concern, but given all my factors, its a risk I'm willing to take. I will be watching very closely to see if there are any problems associated with it. So far, its pretty cool watching them "do their thing". Plus "I" wanna go down there and check it all out! :D
 

acrantophis

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Very cool pics. I bet they look primordial when emerging from the burrow.
 

Tom

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acrantophis said:
Very cool pics. I bet they look primordial when emerging from the burrow.

Yes, that part is very cool, but what is even cooler is when they just sit there in the mouth of the burrow basking and surveying their territory. I'll try to get a pic of that today. They just look so regal, so "at home", it just makes everything seem so right with the world.
 

motero

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Yes, a cold tort will take his time, hence the caution, but the water will still motivate to vacate.

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The upper level is for the little ones, other areas are for the ones that don't get along. The dirt is like cement torts wear down their claws before they get to far. Twice a year I have to haul out tons of tort poop.
 
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