Why do Steppe tortoises like to roam?

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lynnedit

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They certainly have an incredibly large range in the wild:

Takes a bit of scrolling, but go to this site, and scroll down to 2003 articles and read the abstract:
http://www.cebc.cnrs.fr/Fidentite/bonnet/bonnet_publication.htm

"Sex divergence in space utilisation in the steppe tortoise (Testudo horsfieldi). Canadian Journal of Zoology."

Male: 24 Hectares
Female: 57 hectares
1 hectare = 2.5 acres

Good grief, no wonder you need large enclosures for Russian torts.
 

Spn785

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Yup, Russians Like their room. A friend of my had a Russian and his outdoor enclosure was over a third acre and it would still do all it could to escape.
 

Team Gomberg

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I would love to have acres! Oh boy would I!!

Am I the only weirdo who is constantly looking at areas of land and thinking, "wow that would be great space for tortoises!" ?

And by "areas" I mean:

empty fields, other people's yards, the size of the patch of grass in between the on/off ramps for the freeways, etc... lol
 

lynnedit

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No, you are definitely not weird. Wait, isn't that normal?
I am constantly doing that.
Does make travel a bit more interesting, lol
 

Tom

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Absolutely nothing weird about that. I'd be surprised if anyone on this forum doesn't do that. I was doing it today. I planned out where I'd put my wall and everything.
 

lynnedit

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Tom said:
Absolutely nothing weird about that. I'd be surprised if anyone on this forum doesn't do that. I was doing it today. I planned out where I'd put my wall and everything.

Ha ha, perfect.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Yeah, I do that all the time, too. In fact, I liked the look of a nearby nature park so much, I took my two steppe tortoises there for a visit:

"Photos of steppe tortoises on the steppe!"

Seeing them out there on the prairie, it was hard not to imagine having an area like that, where I could have a breeding colony of steppe tortoises.

Of course, I also used to feel the same way when I'd take my dog out for a run in a field, or when I visit the nearby Wildlife Refuge and watch their bison roam. It would be lovely to have land like that with wildlife on it, including steppe tortoises. Probably not an unusual daydream. :)

As for steppe tortoises roaming, yes, they do like to roam. In Central Asia, females have about 50 ha on average, and males about 25. The females walk more slowly but over longer distances, and the males walk faster, crisscrossing their smaller territories, and mating with any females they might come across, or fighting with other male competitors.

Most tortoises have quite large home ranges, larger than those of their distant cousins, the box turtles (which roam over more like 1-5 ha). Why? To look for food and mates. Steppe tortoises are one of the more far-ranging species. This may have something to do with the fact that they are the farthest-north species of tortoise on the planet, and their period of activity is quite short - only about 3 months. So, after coming out of brumation, they have to make sure they are well-fed and have mated before they have to aestivate. Then there's another short period of activity before they have to brumate again. Pretty busy little creatures, aren't they?

BTW - The papers you cite above, of Lagarde and her colleagues, are great. We have discussed this and other papers of hers before. Here's another thread on this topic:

"tortoise range?"
 

lynnedit

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I hadn't seen those pictures before. I enjoyed the story!

I am terrible at plant ID, but I wonder (in your other post) if that was 'Field Bindweed', which looks much like Morning Glory. According to the TT, that is safe in moderation, which is what Mindy was doing.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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lynnedit said:
I hadn't seen those pictures before. I enjoyed the story!

I am terrible at plant ID, but I wonder (in your other post) if that was 'Field Bindweed', which looks much like Morning Glory. According to the TT, that is safe in moderation, which is what Mindy was doing.

Yep, I later found out that, although bindweed is in the morning glory family, it is palatable, and a lot of herbivores eat it, from tortoises to ruminants. So, nothing to worry about. :)

"Bindweed"
"List of greens our Russian tortoises will and won't eat"
 

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Given how much they like to roam, does anyone take their Russian torts on supervised walks outside their enclosures so they can experience new areas?
 

Team Gomberg

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GotTort said:
Given how much they like to roam, does anyone take their Russian torts on supervised walks outside their enclosures so they can experience new areas?

My answer is no.

I will never place any tortoise on the ground in an area without boundaries. Not even if I'm "supervising". It only takes one second of looking up at the cloud, the bird flying over head, a sneeze, anything and the tort can be gone from your sight. Then as you frantically look for your tortoise they have even more time to travel further and next thing you know your beloved pet is lost.

I have on occasion set up a temporary pen using bricks. I'll use 10 or so bricks and lay them out in a box shape and let my leopard tortoise graze in an area of my front yard. It's new territory to him and I feel safe knowing he will be within those boundaries. This set up is what stays supervised by me. Left unattended he could eventually climb the brick and he is vulnerable. But at least with the boundary I know that if I look at something other than him for a minute or a few, he will still be in that square.

Now that I have a Russian, I'm sure I'll do something similar every now and then.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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GotTort said:
Given how much they like to roam, does anyone take their Russian torts on supervised walks outside their enclosures so they can experience new areas?

Yeah, I take my Ruskies out all the time so they can get some stimulation and activity. During the winter, when it's too cold to go outside, I let them walk around the house. During the growing season, they are outside on our securely fenced-off balcony - which has both sun and shade - for most of the day whenever whether permits. Sometimes I also let them run around out front, where they can forage for weeds or just get some sunshine and exercise. Naturally, I keep an eye on them so I don't lose track of them, but unless they try to hide under a bush or burrow under the fence, I let them go wherever they like for an hour or two at a time. :)
 

lynnedit

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Geo, I think you have a pretty easy area to watch them in.
You can do it if you watch them like a hawk (ok, bad analogy), but Heather is right, they are amazingly quick when they want to be.
I lost a tortoise INSIDE the enclosure when she was out for a leg stretch late December (I opened the hatch to the greenhouse where they winter). Hopefully she burrowed down sensibly :O
Never look away.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Tortoises and box turtles can be good escape artists, and their cryptic coloration does help them hide in plain sight. As a boy, I did lose two boxies (one came back), but only because I had left out wandering for hours unattended. Today, I always stay nearby, so I don't worry about not being able to find my tortoises. I take them out to explore and forage in our apartment complex, and I keep an eye on them. I don't mind looking away, as long as I pay attention to where they are. As long as they're out in the open, I find it easy to keep track of them.
 

GotTort

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Do you to worry about hawks swooping up an RT?
 

lynnedit

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If you are close by, next to them, no.

In an enclosure, some use bird netting. But having a lot of small trees/shrubs/undergrowth, even trellis work, can help, as birds of prey do need some wingspan room.
 

biochemnerd808

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I really enjoyed reading this thread. Thanks, Lynne!

Haha, I like knowing that I'm not the only one who analyzes space based on tortoise-roaming-ability.

When I had 'just' 2 tortoises, we would let them roam in the side yard while the kids played, keeping and eye on them, but not following them every step. Timmy always headed for the rock garden or for the road. Roz always went into the flower bed. 'Get off the grass!' seemed the rule of the day for them. They spent a good bit of time in a kid pool outside, too. Now we are building an 2 tortoise specific areas in our side yard (the back yard is too shaded and has multiple levels), and I can't wait!

Boo's old owner (he is our Greek tortoise) used to let him 'roam' the yard while tethered by a ring in his shell. NOT an option I would have chosen...
 
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