Where My Desert Tortoises Hibernate

Yvonne G

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This is my desert tortoise yard:

desert tortoise yard 4-19-18.jpg

It's about 50' by 80' (and usually not as overgrown as in this picture).

At the far end of the yard there is a Oklahoma Red Bud tree and behind that one a mulberry tree. The tortoise shelter is up against that far fence, under the trees. The shelter is in deep shade in the summer, never any sun reaching that area.

When building their shelter, I had brumation in mind, so first of all I hauled in a couple wheel barrow loads of dirt and made a slightly raised pad and leveled it out (raised pad??? We don't get enough rain to make a puddle here, so flooding really isn't in the picture). Then I put down masonry caps (rectangular stepping stones) as a floor and stacked cinder blocks around the edges of the floor stones.

desert tortoise hibernatorium a.jpg

I added a sheet of rigid foam in front of the fence, then a piece of plywood to protect the foam from the tortoises. For the lid, I used more rigid foam and plywood. The lid is set at a bit of an angle so in case it does rain, the water rolls off. But just as added insurance to keep the tortoises dry, once it's all put together, I drape a tarp over the top - just the top, not down the sides, as I don't want a greenhouse effect.

Then, once the tortoises have all decided they're ready for brumation, I make sure they're all in there and I add leaves:

desert tortoise hibernatorium b.jpg

. . . and put the lid on:

desert tortoise hibernatorium c.jpg

I use another piece of rigid foam and plywood to cover up the doorway and side wall, then I rake. . . and I rake. . . and I rake!!!

hibernaculum b.jpg

There are actually two brumatoriums (don't know if that's a word or not, but I like it) in that spot separated by a fence, with the desert tortoises on one side and the Texas tortoises on the other.

I've been brumating my tortoises in this brumatorium for several years and they come out just fine in the spring. The leaves make it so they never freeze, and keep it insulated enough that there's not much temperature fluctuation. Also it's dry; very important.

(The yard after I mowed and edged:)

hibernaculum a.jpg
 

Turtulas-Len

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Are the desert tortoises the only ones you protect from the rain during winter ? That is a healthy looking Red Bud, I bet it's beautiful in the spring.
 

Yvonne G

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Are the desert tortoises the only ones you protect from the rain during winter ? That is a healthy looking Red Bud, I bet it's beautiful in the spring.
The deserts and Texans are both in that brumatorium, separated by a fence through the middle. The russians are basically the same, but their cinderblock brumatorium is on the carport and also filled with leaves.

I'll put up a springtime picture of the redbud when it's in full bloom.
 

TammyJ

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How cold does it get there and for how long might it last?
 

Yvonne G

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Average daytime temps during the winter (Nov. to Feb.) are 40s and 50s. Average night time temps during those months are 30s and low 40s. It sometimes dips down below freezing at night, with frost on the ground most nights.
 

TammyJ

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Wow, that's cold to me! But where I am, up in the hills of Jamaica, at this time of year we get temperatures low as 57F at nights, with fog and it's really chilly. In the days it can go right up to mid 80's. Quite a difference night and day temps. In our "Summer" time it's common to be 90F in the day and 75 - 80 at night.
 

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