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Natural Hibernation


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#1 Wendy&Buttercup

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 11:27 AM

my tortoise Buttercup escaped from her outdoor pen in september 2014. She turned up on Wednesday after roaming in and hibernating in the garden somewhere and has only appeared after a warm day and being disturbed after having some garden work done. I was flabbergasted.! she appears in great health. 

How robust are these little creatures. she is about 8 years old. 

It has now got me thinking as to why we go to all this fuss over them ...., uv lighting, indoor pens, fridge hibernation. I am now considering keeping her outside permanently and allowing her to do what comes naturally ! Does any one else do this ? I would obviously allow her access to only part of the garden so i can monitor her .



#2 wizzasmum

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 11:50 AM

Thing is Wendy, that although your tortoise has survived and lucky you found her, this is not sustainable. In their natural habitat this would only occur for 3-4 months max and sometimes less. While your tort has survived this time, it's not consistent with thriving and 9 months without food is the exception rather than the rule and may well have put massive stress on her kidneys. If you do it again, it might not be such a happy ending, especially as most winters are not so mild as the last one. Do you have weight records before and after this event? I also had a Russian tortoise go missing one September and reappear on a sunny day in March, but any longer than this and you are really pushing the boundaries especially with a species that is a none burrowing species. I agree that uvb lighting is not necessary outdoors, but additional heat for bad weather times most certainly is. There is no way core temps can be sustained long enough for correct digestion in this country without extra help especially for a tortoise that is still growing and therefore has higher than usual mineral demands. Remember that if the UK was ideal for natural living, we would have a wild population of tortoises ;)

#3 Guest_Stella_*

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 08:34 PM

Controversially Wendy, my torts are outside all the time and I hibernate them 'naturally' without issue. They do their own thing and as a responsible keeper monitoring is the key. What you have to think about is the number of torts of 80+ that have lived in gardens without the things we talk about and have survived. The argument that survival in the past is 'lucky' in my opinion doesn't really hold water.
I agree with Sue that your tort has 'hibernated' for far too long, but you can look at ways at adapting your ideas so your tort benefits. For example a halogen lamp would provide extra heat on cool days....... A nice deep indoor pit would be a very safe place to hibernate ..... I have hibernated my torts this way for years.
Can you think about providing your tort with a specific hibernation area which although controlled is tortoises led x x x. Hugs x x

#4 Wendy&Buttercup

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 09:06 PM

I think she was probably roaming around and feeding for a while before hibernating and she could have been awake for a while too. The garden is very natural with no lawn and lots of shrubs so very difficult to find her, What does a deep indoor pit look like stella.?



#5 mildredsmam

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:44 AM

Hi Wendy,

It's good to hear Buttercup is back safe and well. :)

I think what you have to think about here is that we do have to provide some help even when were trying to give them as natural life as possible, mine live outside 24/ 7 all year but they do have a heated shed to help with this, this years weather has been poor really and when it's like this I don't think you would be able to just leave them to it, I see what Stella is saying there will be torts in their 80's that have survived with out all what we provide but on the other hand there will be a lot more that have died, I think if you can provide Buttercup a heated area she would be fine doing as she pleases you just need to be careful later in the year as you know when the temps start to change, in my shed I have a large pit dug out, it's a good couple of feet, then just filled in with soil, last winter my torts just dug down in there for hibernation, they weren't just left to it though every thing was controlled from the start, I would never just leave them to it for hibernation as I just don't think it is worth the risk. :)



#6 Guest_Stella_*

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 07:00 AM

Karen is right Wendy, in the good old days so little was known about tortoises and were bought for tuppence and placed ink garden and left, some survived, a lot died. Tortoise husbandry has moved on and there are certain basic requirements that are needed to keep them healthy. Heat is absolutely necessary, the way you provide that is your choice and there are lots of ideas around that you could try.
I have two hibernation areas outside, Tort Lodge was my first purpose built hibernation house....the joiner said it was a glorified rabbit hutch when I gave him the design. Basically I guess that is what it is, but it is double walled and insulated. It has no base and beneath is a hole four feet deep lined with breeze blocks, insulation and pond liner. This is filled with top soil. There is heating which keeps the temp above 5degrees.
If Buttercup was my tortoise I would be giving her some TLC now x x x xhugs x x x x

#7 wizzasmum

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 10:17 AM

Yes, I think it is very important to know the difference between just leaving them to it and providing some backup when needed on thermostats. Given the winters of a few years back I think it is safe to say that Buttercup would definitely not be here now. The stats for torts in the 50's and 60's were over 90% failure rate for torts left to hibernate to their own devices. Of course there are many elderly tortoises still living in U.k.gardens, but they are the exception, not the rule and will have good south facing gardens, good drainage, shelter etc etc. I had one of the old torts come to me around fifteen or so years back, which the vet had said was on her last legs and needed somewhere to end her days. Two days ago old Tilly laid 6 eggs next to the house and is doing fine, but it took many years to get her back to good health after even more years of slowly declining. People will always do what they think best, but if any creature is incapable of reproducing naturally in this country or any other, then it's obvious that it must have help to thrive and not survive ;) Just leaving them to it will end in premature death and a less than optimum quality of life meanwhile :(




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