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:

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.