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Why is my tortoise wandering?

Discussion in 'North American Tortoises (genus Gopherus)' started by CeciliaCornwall, Sep 28, 2019.

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  1. CeciliaCornwall

    CeciliaCornwall New Member

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    We have 2 desert tortoises roaming free in our tortoise proofed backyard. We live in the Phoenix area so it’s been detestably hot. The last week it’s been pretty nice, high temps in low 90s or high 80s and the lows in the high 60s. Our two girls have been hiding for the most part except for mornings and evenings to eat. Today, Lily has been marching all over the yard like she’s on a mission. I’ve soaked her, fed her treats, put her in her hide, and nothing seems to satisfy her. Every now and then she’ll stop and lower herself to the ground (photo of this), look around, and then start roaming again. Is this normal and I just never noticed because it’s been so hot and we haven’t had the chance to observe? It might be important to know that we took both tortoises to the vet last week for a pre-hibernation checkup and our other tortoise, Hope, was found to have pinworms. Both are being treated with dewormer.

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  2. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Mine has been walking a lot more, too. I live in low desert, so it has been horribly hot until the last week or two.

    My guess is that as they slow down on eating in prep for brumation, they know that their gut has to be emptied out. They begin to only eat dried grasses and hay, which don't move through the gut as easily as wet foods.

    Walking is necessary for them to digest and poop, so they walk to facilitate this process.

    This is just my theory. Maybe an expert will chime in.

    Also, maybe they are just so extremely happy to be out of their burrows, they stroll for enjoyment! [emoji6]
  3. CeciliaCornwall

    CeciliaCornwall New Member

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    Love the theories!! Thank you for the reply, it’s so fun to see them out!
  4. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Also, dragging rear legs is sometimes indicative of constipation. Have you seen any poops?
  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I think Karen's suggestion is a likely possibility. I also think they just get more active after a hot spell when the weather is more favorable. A third possibility is that she's got eggs and is looking for a place to lay. Last possibility is that she doesn't like being in an enclosure (territory) with another tortoise and is desperately searching fro an escape. They should really never be kept in pairs.

    Daily soaks will help with whatever the problem is, and do no harm.
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  6. Toddrickfl1

    Toddrickfl1 Well-Known Member Tortoise Club

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    She might need to lay eggs.
  7. CeciliaCornwall

    CeciliaCornwall New Member

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    Hmm interesting theories. Yes we have lots and lots of poop, I watched her poop twice yesterday but it was far too wet. I wasn’t sure if that was a side effect of her worm meds or if she’s been getting spoiled too much. I assume the latter and have put a hold on romaine, which she would live on if given the chance. We have two hides in the yard right now but they are about 5 feet from each other in a straight line. Is that too close? I plan to dig a third on the opposite side of the yard today just in case they want options. I was told by the people who gave them to me that she’s not old enough to lay eggs? But I don’t know how that works for tortoises. She is not fully grown per the vet. But if that were the case, do they typically lay eggs in their hides or elsewhere? I’m happy to make the right environment for her to do so just in case.
  8. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    How large is your outdoor area?

    The problem with 2 together is that tortoises are solitary creatures. They don't like company, and don't want a friend.

    They are also very territorial. So if another tort comes in, it is considered an invader, and the original occupant will do everything it can to oust the newcomer. If the newcomer is bigger, he will try to get the smaller one out.

    This is done, by the bigger/ stronger tort, by bullying. Laying on top of the food, getting the best basking spot, following, sleeping together, butting, etc. In the wild, the weaker one would leave the territory, taking all that stress off both of them. But in captivity, there is no place to get away. Tensions rise until they actually fight, inflicting serious wounds or even death.

    However, there are exceptions. Youngsters get along until maturity. Sometimes 3 or more will get along because the aggression is spread out. One male with a couple females usually works, but keep in mind it is illegal to breed DTs.

    If you have a huge area, many sight barriers, and feed and water and place burrows apart, you may get by with it. But at the first sign of bullying, you would need to get them away from each other.

    Or put a divider in your enclosure, and keep them separate.
  9. CeciliaCornwall

    CeciliaCornwall New Member

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    So both of my torts came from others. They are sisters but they are different ages, I guess 7 and 14. Neither has ever lived alone, but this is the first time they have lived together. We got them both on the same day about 2-3 months ago. Hope is the older one and she lived with a male tortoise her entire life until she moved in with us. Lily was with her parents and other siblings until she came to us. Lily is the one wandering now. She is also the one I would suspect is the bully, but bullying doesn't seem to happen often now. At first, they were always right next to each other, but our fault because we didn't know they needed separate hides. Now, they don't interact much, but when they do there is some head bobbing and sleeping in the same place. The sleeping part again is our fault as they dug their own hide under an aloe vera because we didn't realize they would need separate hides. There are now enough hides, but Lily still prefers the aloe and Hope is usually in a hide we dug. Occasionally we find them together in the aloe. Food is given separately, water/soaking separately and they rarely graze/sun at the same time. We have about 1/3 acre, minus the house and front yard, I'd guess they have around 2000 sqft to roam in (I'm a terrible size estimator, so that's rough haha), which I know is small compared to the wild but seems sufficient to avoid each other. The entire yard is open to them and it does wrap around either side of the house. They both seem to prefer the west side so that's where the aloe and hides are, but I'm digging one on the east side today (house faces north) to give more options.

    We had planned to hibernate them outside but last week we had an uncharacteristic rain downpour and the hides flooded. We will be bringing them into the garage after that because that was scary. We pulled them out immediately and they've been to the vet since, fortunately no issues. At any rate, we will have all winter to correct any issues in our backyard and make it even better for the when they wake up. Open to all suggestions! We did consider giving one back, but we are rather attached now. It is possible to get a 3rd female, but I think someone else told me that wouldn't fix anything.
  10. Kyle gempler

    Kyle gempler New Member

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    Hi I live in the same area and my desert tort has been roaming around more often. I think it is a normal thing for them to do.
  11. bioteach

    bioteach New Member 5 Year Member

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    We live in the Scottsdale area as well. Our girl, Sunshine, went on a similar mission. For a week or so she tried to get out of her safe enclosure by climbing out.and explore the world. She was unable to escape; but she tried over and over. As of now, she has given up and is sticking closer to the entrance of her burrow. Apparently, this behavior is normal. Sunshine was also treated for pinworms. Our vet agrees with me that the worm eggs are probably present in bird and/or rodent droppings as well as their little dirty feet. It's very easy for outdoor animals to spread parasites and I am glad that we were able to find out before hibernation and treat her.
  12. CeciliaCornwall

    CeciliaCornwall New Member

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    As was I! Did yours have soft poop with the meds or have we just been spoiling the poor thing?

    Do you usually hibernate Sunshine in the garage?
  13. CeciliaCornwall

    CeciliaCornwall New Member

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    I can see that, I also want to wander around outside more now that it isn’t miserable. Do you tend to hibernate yours in the garage?
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