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Hibernating in France

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#1 Guest_BertieBassett_*

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 10:17 AM

Hi everyone - Big L plates on so please be gentle!!!!

We are fortunate to live in SW France where we have hot summers but a cold snap in the winter.
My son found Bertie in the vines - confirmed from the Tortoise Trust approx 10 yr old Herman - escaped domesticated pet.
Tried to reunite with owmners but no luck so local Police have said we can keep him - Hooray!!!!!

I have hankered for a Tort for years ...... clearly had no idea of how complicated they can be but how much pleasure they can give - he is so friendly - when he is in the garden he will come and sit at my feet!!!! I adore him !!!

So he has had 7 months plodding about in the garden and now have bought him in as planning to hibernate him ( on advice of local owner). However the advice I have been given varies so much from france and UK and want to ensure he will be with us next year so I would welcome any recommendations.

France expert has told me - Put him in a box - leave for 4 weeks and then refridgerate. Didn't sound quite right so have done the following:

He was outside and eating until 22nd November - bought him in and put him in a large box / enclosure - no food and just background heat - ( no central heating just wood burners) However after reading this forum I realise that he needed a heat lamp so bought a 100w ceramic jobbie which I put on him during the day for a few hours. The temp in the room is about 16 during the day and goes down to 12 at night and he goes directly under the lamp so obviously alot warmer.
It is quiet there and natural day and night.

I have also started giving him a warm bath every other day and noticed today bits in the water which possibly could be poop.
But Am thinking now that its too cold where he is and maybe needs to be nearer a heatsource but don't want to mess up his temps and body clock after technically cooling him down - It is also a lot more noisier with kids......HELP!!!!!!!!!

I guess not having a proper tortoise table makes it difficult.

Would really appreciate any advice - am thinking of the 17th December to put him away.

Also we go away for 7 days from the 26th Dec - I have someone coming in to check on him - have told them to check for urination - what do other owners do when they go away for a few days and have a tort in the fridge?

Please be gentle - I just want to do the best for Bert!!!

#2 Guest_markf_*

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 11:24 AM

welcome to the forum and congratulations on your pet bertie.

there is good guide at the top of this page by Dawn to wind down your tortoise. Many of us here are new to hibernation as well so you are in good company. (including me! )

If Bert has been without food for two weeks since 22 november then he is technically half way through his wind down.

So long as the tortoise is in good health (go to tpg website to see a guide as to hibernating and checking if tortoise is healthy), then i presume most would encourage to continue with the wind down.

The idea for the wind down is to gradually reduce the heat from the heat lamp and cool the tort down. The guide Dawn has done will help you with this or the tpg website has one as well.

Your now in the third week so the heat lamp according to wind down guides should only be on for 4 hours.

If the temp in the room other than that is between 12-16, i would have thought that is ideal, but others may have more expertise with that.

Then week four as you will see from the guide the heat lamp doesnt go on and then later in the week they go into a cool frost free room in a cool down box.

And yes the bathing every other or every day is most important as you have noted.

As regards to your fridge you really need to set your fridge up ready for the tortoise now, and get the box in there ready with a thermometor to keep track of what is happening. We had some difficulties with this!!

Again keep asking questions on here and go to the tpg web site or on here where there is a guide to how to set your fridge up.

The main thing i have noticed is the fridge temp is affected by the outside or room temp. So if your going away you need to bare this in mind.

Just a few pointers ive picked up as another novice, but there is much information and help available here to get you through. As you will see we are having our worries and panics with this hibernation lark, and if it hadnt been for the help here i dont think i would have done it!

Welcome and regards. Mark.

#3 Guest_BertieBassett_*

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 12:31 PM

Thank - you Mark for your reply.
I forgot to add that his weight is good 1035g and 17cm long. He is also still active particularly when in a new place - I think trying to find a way out!!!!
Kind Regards Julie

#4 Guest_markf_*

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 12:47 PM

oh yes and thats another important thing you need to keep doing. Weigh them once a week.


0.21 is an ideal calculation for hibernation. This will drop a little by hibernation and by doing this calculation you will be able to keep an eye on him.

Ours were both 0.19 by the time they went in the fridge, which is ok for hibernation.

Regards. Mark.

#5 Guest_wizzasmum_*

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 02:17 PM

Are you absolutely certain he is not a wild tort as they are indigenous to your area? If this is the case he will know how to wind down naturally outdoors.

#6 Guest_BertieBassett_*

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 06:01 PM

Yes we are sure - it was a worry for us although I think it is very rare to get a wild one around here.
We had an identification from the Tortoise Trust where the guy said that from the photos he was def a pet - he is also so tame - completely at ease when handled and comes to you when he hears voices. He is definatley winding down though - very quiet.

#7 Guest_wizzasmum_*

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 09:29 AM

Depending on your temps there I would let him wind down naturally as it is a natural tortoise climate. If you keep an eye on where he is you can then box him up after four weeks.

#8 Guest_Ozric_*

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 10:11 PM

Hi! Views in France about hibernation are not the same as they are in the UK. Because the Hermann is a native animal there, people take a much more naturalistic approach to hibernation. The winter weather is generally much more predictable than ours in the UK so outdoor hibernation in a protected place is a lot easier than it is here. Many keepers in France use a strong wooden box and and place the tortoise in a cellar or just outside their house (as long as the sun and predators, thieves cannot get at it). If you happen to live in a cold house with no central heating then a spare room might work in your case although most of us these days have houses that are far too warm.

If you are going to use the fridge then its mainly just a question of how long to wind down for. If the temperature where the tortoise is at the moment is just 16C then 4 weeks would surely be needed from last meal.

Some people who keep tortoises in France consider the fridge to be an absolute abomination - so be prepared for a lecture if you come across one of these purists. Sadly the Hermann no longer has any viable populations in the south west, there are just remnants in those areas now. Further east the Hermann still lives in the hills north of St Tropez.

Do you know which subspecies your tortoise is and can you post any photos for us to look at? I have a special interest in the Testudo Hermanni Hermanni which is the native French tortoise.

#9 Guest_BertieBassett_*

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:30 AM

I am hoping from previous info that he was a pet and not from wild - he is so tame - never retracts when picked up - he loves being tickled under the chin and if I am around near to him he will move to where I am -
Where we are which is 2/3 of the way down on the west coast of France I am reliably informed that there aren't any wild ones.
We do have huge buzzards here and birds of prey and wondered if he had been taken maybe from someones garden or maybe just escaped - they are valuable her in France also - the local petshop has babies for 400.
Heres hoping ...... I would be devastated if we had taken him out of his natural enviroment - I just can't see it though.

Anyway - its -5 now here outside - colder than the UK!!! So I think the fridge method is best - its been stable since start up at 5 degrees and we are getting ready for the final bath. - We are just coming up for 4 weeks after eating - and no more poos or wees despite regular bathing -

I am like a new Mum sick with worry !!!- never ever imagined I could have such an emotional tie to something without fur!!!!!

#10 Guest_cyberangel_*

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:47 AM

There is a tortoise valley in the south west of France on the borders of France and Spain, they might be able to help out with information on how to hibernate in France. Or the tortoise village in Golforon. Both worth a visit if you are in the area of them.

#11 Guest_BertieBassett_*

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 09:44 AM

Sadly Spain is about 5 hours from here - but will google and see if I can find out more from them. - Thanks
If he is a Boetgerrie - Will that have any other impact on hibernation - ie The Jackson ratio?
Many Thanks Julie

#12 Guest_wizzasmum_*

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 12:20 PM

Hibernation is exactly the same for all subspecies Julie.
Good luck

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