SW box turtle starting to hibernate for the winter

thelub

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I posted this on another turtle forum. Just looking for some multiple inputs on my little question.

Earlier this year we acquired a SW box turtle from my wife's mother who was tired of watching it. Last winter this boxie hibernated in a box in the back bedroom of the mom's house. Mom had her since she was a hatchling and she is now about 7 yrs old.

Now that the weather has turned cold here in eastern Washington, she has hunkered down in her enclosure. Its a 50 gal tote filled about a quarter of the way with peat moss. She buries herself and doesn't come out unless we dig her out. She started spending all day buried as soon as the weather got just a little cold at night. We dig her out about once a week to feed her and soak her. When we wake her up, she eats a lot, suns a little under the heat lamp , then returns to her buried state. Earlier this year when she woke up from her hibernation, she was extremely light and dehydrated but rather healthy by all appearances.

It seems like she is going to hibernate no matter what so I want to prepare her as best as possible. We always feed her a good mix of veggies, fruit and protein (usually poached chicken, her fav). Last time we woke her up, we gave her a nice soak and she took a fat poop, ate and then went back to sleep.

What can I do to prepare her for hibernation? Should I just let her natural instincts take over and leave her alone? Her tub is always in the house except on warm days when we put it outside in the sun for most of the day. I think she might have got the urge to hibernate because her tub was by the big sliding window that was a little breezy and she probably felt the cold being so close to the door.

I have a detached garage I could put the enclosure in, but it can get a bit cold here in the winter time and I'm worried it could be tooo cold. This will be my first winter in this house and I'm not sure if it will freeze in the garage or not. For now we have put her in my son's bedroom in the back of the house which still gets heat, but not a ton. We usually keep our house around 65-70 and I'm worried that might be too warm for her to hibernate in properly.

Should I just go ahead and let nature do what it does best? Anything I should do to help that?
 

johnsonnboswell

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Way to warm. What you're describing is not actually hibernation. It's dangerous. Why don't you get a proper UVB light & keep the turtle up properly?
 

Grandpa Turtle 144

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I have box turtles and if your not trieing to breed her why try to hibernate her
She don't need it
 

thelub

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I'm not trying to hibernate her, its something she has done on her own. She is inside where its warm. She has UVB and the proper diet. Her instincts are very strong. I'm going to get a CHE or a heat lamp and see if I can break her of this dangerous habit. Last year she slept for over 3 months in a very bad environment. She's a tough cookie, but I don't want to risk her hurting herself. I'm going to crank up the heat in her box and see if that helps keep her up and about.
 

Saleama

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Unless your house gets down really cold, a night heat source is not required for a box turtle. She will do fine with day time light and basking spot and complete, cool darkness at night. My adults are in an outdoor garden in Dallas and they come out when it is cool and breed like rabbits! They run around all da long now. I think they like temps from 60 - 75 much better than when it is hot. As soon as it starts hitting the 80's - 90's you can never find them. Boxies need the cool down at night. Many box turtles dig in and stay there. I have some juvie gulf coast boxies that I only see once in a blue moon. My three toed are the same. They dig in and only come up every few days. My ornates are out and about all day every day and only dig in or hit the hide to sleep or carry off their daily super worm to eat in peace.
Make sure she has plenty of clean water to swim in and drink, clean food doesn't hurt either. Also, try just letting some night crawlers loose in her tub and let nature take it's course. She will hunt when she is hungy or sees a worm.
 

thelub

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Thanks for all the help folks! I now have a better idea of what to do going forward.
 

terryo

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I think that your climate is too cold for her to hibernate outside, and if she tries to hibernate in an environment that isn't cold enough, while in your house, she will go into brumation, which is not quite hibernation. This really isn't too good for any turtle. IMO, I would suggest that you up your temperatures into the 80's and keep everything really warm and humid, with a UVB mimicking the Summer hours. This might keep her up and awake. I would also offer her food every day. Worms, and other bugs that might stimulate her appetite.
 

Elohi

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My ornate is really slowing down this last week. Her indoor habitat is nice and warm between 80-85 during the day and is 69-74 at night but she is still slowing down, eating a lot less, and spending more time buried than not.
Her internal clock is stronger than the environmental cue's inside her enclosure.
 

johnsonnboswell

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Is your UVB light bulb fresh? Is it running 14 hours a day? Those are critical elements to keeping a turtle active and awake.

My crew is much more active when they also get natural sunlight in their indoor habitats.
 

terryo

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Elohi said:
My ornate is really slowing down this last week. Her indoor habitat is nice and warm between 80-85 during the day and is 69-74 at night but she is still slowing down, eating a lot less, and spending more time buried than not.
Her internal clock is stronger than the environmental cue's inside her enclosure.

You are right. No matter what we do they will slow down. Even the young ones that I keep inside are slowing down, and don't come out to eat every day, although it's still Summer in their vivariums......... they just seem to know.
 

lisa127

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I keep my box turtles indoor habitat at a range of 75 to 90 during the day and in the low to mid 70's at night with 13 hours of UVB lighting during the day. I do not have a problem with her slowing down at all. She is active and wants to eat daily no matter the month.
 

terryo

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lisa127 said:
I keep my box turtles indoor habitat at a range of 75 to 90 during the day and in the low to mid 70's at night with 13 hours of UVB lighting during the day. I do not have a problem with her slowing down at all. She is active and wants to eat daily no matter the month.

It could be because they are not outside. All mine are outside until the Fall, even the little ones, that come inside. All of mine that live outside have stopped eating now and only come up for a few hours if it's warm. The little one's that were brought in have slowed down too. Maybe when they live inside nothing has changed for them, so they don't slow down. I've never really kept any inside.
 

Elohi

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Mine is indoors, I take her out every other day for sunshine and let her wander around in the grass. That's also usually the day I soak her. Regardless of all these factors, she still seems to instinctually know it's getting late in the year. It's not like she is trying to hibernate but she is definitely slower and eating less than she usually does. Her age is unknown, although I guess her to be an adult, and this is her first captive fall/winter.
 

Saleama

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The ones I have seem to all act differently. Mine are all juveniles that have never been hibernated. My ornates are active all day everyday even now. My three toed have been in hiding for over a month and my gulf coasts have gone into hiding in the last week but still come out every other day or so to get a super worm. Nobody is eating their veggies or fruits any longer and only going into the swimming hole in the early morning. The ornates and GCB's used to practically live in the swimming hole. I also notice that they all come out and run around crazy when it is raining outside even though they are indoor turtles. Probably the barometric pressure. They know when it is cold and rainy. My outdoor adults are out every day and show no signs of slowing down (50's at night, low 70's day time temps) and in fact are mating like the world is ending. I guess they know better than we do what they need to do?
 
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