While the universal term for “that thing animals do in the winter” tends to be hibernation, technically what turtles do is called brumation.

Unlike mammals who will consume more right before winter. to increase the amount of fat they have to get through the winter, turtles actually stop eating in order to go into their dormant state on an empty gut. While mammals drop in temperature during hibernation, they are still able to regulate their own temperature somewhat. Since turtles can’t do this, they brumate in locations like burrows to maintain as steady a temperature as possible. 

Why does this matter? Well, it matters because turtles are particularly vulnerable when in this state. Dramatic changes in temperature (due to environmental changes or due to someone or something disturbing its brumation location) can put a lot of stress on the turtles body, sometimes leading to death before springtime. 

The point is, in winter? it’s particularly important to leave wildlife where it is. Turtles are smart ones. They find the best possible location to ‘sleep away’ the winter and disruption of any kind is no good. It’s important to let them stay where they’ve decided to stick things out so as to avoid exposing them to harsher weather than they can handle. Something to think about in relation to global warming (and its accompanying cooling) and construction or development projects taking place during the winter months too. 

Check out this article from biologists at The Missouri Department of Conservation discussing area turtles in the winter months. 

(Source: Candice Davis, Missouri Department of Conservation Via Lakenewsonline )

As winter sets in, some of our wildlife, like turtles, seem to disappear. According to Bruce Henry, a natural history biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), turtles are still here, they just have ways of hiding away to stay safe from the elements.

Instead of hibernating, cold-blooded turtles slow their metabolic processes down tremendously when temperatures drop, he said.

“They’re in a dormant, inactive state,” he said.

When temps drop they seek out environments that will provide the most stable temperature to wait out the winter months. Turtles have to save energy in order to survive the winter, so if they have to endure fast temperature changes, it costs them some of their fat stores, which puts them in danger.

“For example, a common snapper may descend to a deep submerged log pile in a pond or creek and curl up and wait out the winter with little movement, if any,” Henry said, adding that even the turtle’s respiration and heart beat rates will decrease dramatically to help save energy.

“Instead of breathing, aquatic turtles can absorb oxygen from the water through their skin,” he said.

Box turtles dig burrows and red eared sliders burrow into mud at the bottom of wetlands for protection from extreme winter temperatures. They won’t eat as much food throughout the winter either since eating will increase their metabolic rate.

“Slow and steady is the name of the game for a turtle to survive the winter,” Henry said.

Henry said people can help turtles by providing good places for them to hide. They need soil to burrow in the forests, plants to take shelter in in the wetlands, and overall healthy habitat and waters where they can seek refuge from the cold.

“Like us, turtles need a place to take shelter from the cold,” he said. “That shelter can be a rotted-out log on the south slope of an Ozark woods or a downed cypress treetop in a bootheel slough.”

“Turtles and other wildlife are tremendously stressed when temperatures decline to the levels we experience in Missouri,” he said. “The main thing people can do during the winter months make sure they don’t disturb habitat unnecessarily when weather conditions are bad.”

For example, a pond drained in the winter may freeze many of the aquatic species that may have been able to move to nearby wetlands had the temperatures been higher.


“Wildlife can’t survive the disturbances or destruction of habitat while they struggle against adverse weather conditions,” he said.

It’s that time of year when the leaves fall off the trees, the dandelions start to disappear, and the questions about hibernation, winter care, and seasonal behavior changes, start dancing in our heads. 

While hibernation is a controversial topic amongst tortoise care takers, knowing the risks and benefits, and understanding of how climate changes affect our torts, is vital to proper care.

Here is a snippet of From the articleTortoises: Hibernation Versus Over Wintering by Exotics Vet. Sean McCormack. It is a MUST READ for every tortoise owner. Whether you’re considering hibernation or just wondering how the process works, I can promise you will learn some important information on how to better care for your tortoise. 

Tortoises: Hibernation Versus Over Wintering

What is hibernation and is my tortoise ready?

Hibernation is a natural process occurring in wild Mediterranean tortoises but can be a risky period for the health of your pet, and must be undertaken with great care. In order to remain in good health during hibernation, and indeed to emerge in a healthy state in Spring, your tortoise must be in good enough body condition with enough fat and energy reserves to survive the dormant period over the winter months. It also must be very well hydrated before entering hibernation so that it has enough water reserves to maintain metabolic functions whilst asleep. If a tortoise is underweight or poorly hydrated entering hibernation, it may not wake up in Spring or if it does, it may be severely dehydrated and succumb to a number of conditions and illnesses on emergence from hibernation as discussed previously in our blog:

http://www.richmondvets.co.uk/wakey-wakey-rise-and-shine-for-tortoises/

My tortoise has never had a problem hibernating, why would it now?

Unfortunately, the poor summers we now experience with wetter weather and lower temperatures do not lend themselves to maintaining our pet tortoises outdoors successfully year-round. Mediterranean tortoise species need a long warm summer feeding on nutritious foods in order to build up enough reserves to last through hibernation. When we have wet, cold summers this stockpiling effect is not achieved as tortoise metabolism and appetite is much reduced in such weather. Because of this we often see post hibernation problems in tortoises with severely debilitated immunity in Spring, as well as in a catabolic or emaciated state suffering from anorexia on emergence. These cases often need aggressive veterinary treatment, including fitting of an oesophagostomy or feeding tube into the side of the neck. With careful planning and preparation, we can minimise the risk of these post-hibernation problems occurring. In the same way the springs we are having are often very cold and wet at precisely the time our tortoises are waking from hibernation and need warmth to kick start their metabolism back into action after their winter rest.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE! 

siggysaurus:

I’m sure it’s way too early for Rocky to be out of hibernation? #turtle #terrapin

Much like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, This rocky will come out of hibernation when *HE* finds it appropriate. 

leelatortoise:

My first ever post!

I’m awake and drying off after my bath, after my first ever hibernation! I only lasted 8 weeks instead of the full 12, because I had a big poo and a wee, and Mum had to bring me out.
Percy is still asleep in the fridge, but I won’t see him for another 4 weeks!

HI LEELA!! Good Morning! or Spring.. well not yet uh.. HI! 

When you gotta go you gotta go…

(Source Independent.co.uk )

Hibernation is a controversial topic among owners, rehabilitators, and researchers. For those in appropriate climates, they may decide to allow their tortoise or turtle to hibernate naturally. For those who do not they may choose to induce hibernation, going through the pre-hibernation process, then placing their shell friends in a temperature controlled environment. This last route is a common one for those in the UK and Europe. 

What does that mean? Well, in this case it means of the interesting discoveries made during a survey of items found in refrigerators across Europe? A tortoise or two were among them. 😀 And well, Thats not all that weird. hah

Deciding to hibernate is a decision that requires a lot of research, confidence in your turtle or tortoises health, and a lengthy process. Read one woman’s ‘hibernation Journey’ via Joe Heine’s website russiantortoise.net here. 

(read the blurb about the study at independent.co.uk)

(Source Independent.co.uk )

Hibernation is a controversial topic among owners, rehabilitators, and researchers. For those in appropriate climates, they may decide to allow their tortoise or turtle to hibernate naturally. For those who do not they may choose to induce hibernation, going through the pre-hibernation process, then placing their shell friends in a temperature controlled environment. This last route is a common one for those in the UK and Europe. 

What does that mean? Well, in this case it means of the interesting discoveries made during a survey of items found in refrigerators across Europe? A tortoise or two were among them. 😀 And well, Thats not all that weird. hah

Deciding to hibernate is a decision that requires a lot of research, confidence in your turtle or tortoises health, and a lengthy process. Read one woman’s ‘hibernation Journey’ via Joe Heine’s website russiantortoise.net here. 

(read the blurb about the study at independent.co.uk)

Oh no! 🙁 here’s hoping it doesn’t get too cold again. 

Warm weather has turtle lovers warning reptiles will come up too soon

The warm weather has turtle lovers worried that the city’s hibernating reptiles will also come up too soon.

“If it doesn’t get cold, they’ll be all right, but if there’s a cold snap, they could die,” said Lorri Cramer, a N.Y.S.-licensed wildlife rehabilitator with the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society who cares for the city’s sick and injured turtles.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/warm-weather-turtle-lovers-warning-reptiles-article-1.1036724#ixzz1omHZYEqm