Winter outdoors in Southern California

beachylivin

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Earlier in the year we purchased a home in Eastern San Diego. This is our first winter season here. Because we are in eastern county, it gets very hot during the summer and very cool during the winter (in comparison to the rest of southern california).

My Leopard has always lived outdoors in a 12x12 enclosure. He has a shaded area, many warm basking spots and a ramp that leads to a wooden house that has a heat pad on one side. Currently its been about 45 at night and I have been bringing him into our guest bathroom in the evening where he has access to a heat lamp. Our weather here is often confused- it was 91 on Thanksgiving (with night time temps still reaching 40-45) and is supposed to be raining today through Wednesday.

I noticed a couple nights I had left him out, he was not sleeping on his heat pad. He wanted the non heated side. The heat pad has a sheepskin cover on it, and a beach towel on top of that, so I know its not too warm. I have also tried just having the sheepskin cover on it, without a towel, and he still seems uninterested.

I am an animal keeper by job, but my focus is on native species, which includes our native tortoise species, however they hibernate.

I am wondering what night time temps are okay for a leopard tortoise? Should I bring him in every night, or is he okay as long as it warms up during the day? Also, are there any small outdoor/weather safe heat lamps?

Thank you!
 

Tom

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Our climates are very similar, so I have the same issues. Through many years of trial and error, I have arrived at the following:

Your current set up is a fire hazard and not nearly warm enough for our cold nights. A heat lamp in a bathroom is no place for a tortoise either. Its too cold on the floor, and a heat lamp is likely to damage the carapace if its warm enough to compensate for the cold floor. Plus they need it dark at night. Here is what works well for leopards in our climate.
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/

I would also go bigger than 12x12' if at all possible. Its certainly better than some, but more space would be better.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Lexi:

I'm not quite sure I understand your 'outdoor/weather safe heat lamp question. So you mean the you run it off an extension cord? I just use the regular clamp lamps that you buy at any home improvement store. They are inside the tortoise's sheds, where weather really can't get to them. I use an incandescent black bulb for night time, and for days when the sun doesn't shine, I use a regular incandescent 100 watt bulb.
 

beachylivin

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image1.JPG Tom: I am not sure how my current set up is a fire hazard? I have an outdoor heat pad, made for the outdoors, which is also made to have a sheep skin cover on it and is safe to be on the surface of my tortoise house. I have it connected to an outdoor extension cord. It is all weather safe and is very similar to the links shown.

As for the heat lamp, he goes in only at night time, he is not laying on tile and our house is kept warm, so I am not too worried about him burning his carapace or his plastron being cold. The heat lamp is at an appropriate distance away. Tortoises do not see red very well, he does not seem bothered by it. Night time temps are well below 30 where they are native to. Thankfully, having cared for many reptiles, this isn't my first rodeo. However, I do not intend on exposing my little guy to temperatures such as that.

Yvonne: thank you for your response. Yes, I meant running off an extension cord. And just to be safe I would want weather safe emitters. We have large outdoor heat emitters at work, but they are much too large for my tortoise house.

Attached is a picture of his set up
 
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Tom

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Tom: I am not sure how my current set up is a fire hazard? I have an outdoor heat pad, made for the outdoors, which is also made to have a sheep skin cover on it and is safe to be on the surface of my tortoise house. I have it connected to an outdoor extension cord. It is all weather safe and is very similar to the links shown.

As for the heat lamp, he goes in only at night time, he is not laying on tile and our house is kept warm, so I am not too worried about him burning his carapace or his plastron being cold. The heat lamp is at an appropriate distance away. Tortoises do not see red very well, he does not seem bothered by it. Night time temps are well below 30 where they are native to. Thankfully, having cared for many reptiles, this isn't my first rodeo. However, I do not intend on exposing my little guy to temperatures such as that.

Yvonne: thank you for your response. Yes, I meant running off an extension cord. And just to be safe I would want weather safe emitters. We have large outdoor heat emitters at work, but they are much too large for my tortoise house.

Attached is a picture of his set up


Do you mean and outdoor heat pad like a Kane or Stanfield Heat mat? Those should not have any cover over them. It says so all over the packaging, and personal conversations with Craig Kane confirm it. Can't use substrate, towels or anything else over them. Human heat pads are not safe for reptile use. Plus with that alone, in your uninsulated house with the open door, it simply won't be warm enough with just a heat pad.

Measure the temps on your bathroom floor. I'll bet its much colder than you think. The thermostat five feet up on the wall will be much warmer than the floor. Tortoises do not belong on floors in homes. Its an accident waiting to happen. We see it here frequently.

And yes they do see red. They see color more and better than we do. If you can see it, your tortoise can see it better.

Yes night temps in leopard land get cooler than that, but you are not in leopard land. You are in a temperate climate that is totally different than where they come from. As such, trial and many of the aforementioned errors have taught me what temperatures work best for them when housed outdoors in Southern CA. 80-85 at night in their heated boxes over winter gives them a place to warm up on cold day like today. Cold days that they are not very likely to experience in the wild in a tropical country where the days are always warm even if nights do get cooler. Further, guessing about what night temps they might be able to survive in their native habitat in their chosen wild micro climate is a wonderful and fun subject to ponder and debate. It is a mistake to exchange that speculation for decades of actual hands on experience with this species in this climate. Its not my first rodeo either, and for the benefit of your tortoise, I am trying to help you to not have to learn the hard way, as I did, so many years ago.

Don't take my word for any of this. Ask more questions. Grill me. Ask me how I know what I know, and what all can go wrong. Think about how I arrived at all this detailed and specific info. Go back and look at threads of previous night houses and how mine evolved into what they are now...

I'm here to help your tortoise. That's all.
 

Yvonne G

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Because your house is so small, I would go with an infra red heat panel mounted on the ceiling. I really doubt you can get a red/black light up high enough off the tortoise's carapace to not burn him. We've seen many pictures of scutes coming off due to the tortoise's back being too close to the light. Here's what I'm talking about:

http://www.windycityparrot.com/AviTemp-Infrared-Heat-Panel-for-Bird-Cages-11-x-16_p_3728.html

I've used this link for the picture only. You can shop around and find this type panel much cheaper than is sold in this link.

While your surfing the web take a look for vinyl strip doors, or better yet, go to a fabric shop and buy come clear vinyl strips to hang over the tortoise house doorway. Here's what mine look like:

10-21-11 leopards.jpg


(And be sure to notice my very professional electricity job going in at the bottom right side of the doorway)
 

Tom

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Here is a good source for radiant heat panels. I've been using these ones from this guy for several years in several applications now. They work really well and they have had no problems. I've got a bunch of them running right now, and I'll be instaling them into some indoor enclosures in the next few weeks.

http://www.reptilebasics.com/80-watt-radiant-heat-panel

I still think you will need a proper heat mat, insulation and a door though.
 

DeanS

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Here is a good source for radiant heat panels. I've been using these ones from this guy for several years in several applications now. They work really well and they have had no problems. I've got a bunch of them running right now, and I'll be instaling them into some indoor enclosures in the next few weeks.

http://www.reptilebasics.com/80-watt-radiant-heat-panel

I still think you will need a proper heat mat, insulation and a door though.

I second Tom's advice here! Also, what part of SD do you live in? When I worked at San Diego Zoo I lived in Lakeside...and you're right! Blistering from May to October...and often into November and December! ;)
 
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