Fall Is Approaching! Are You Ready for Hibernation?

It's still warm here in the Houston area the first part of September but the days are getting shorter and soon our weather will cool and your turtles or tortoises will be noticing these changes too. Now is the time to double check the health of your turtles/tortoises and make sure they are in prime condition. Do not allow an ill or recently ill turtle to hibernate. Short days are the primary trigger of "hibernation mode". If you have a turtle native to your area and it is outside, it will start to prepare for hibernation (or brumation as is the proper term for reptile hibernation). It will gradually go "off feed" and burrow into the ground or stay in the bottom of your pond. In mild climates like ours they may emerge during warm days to bask but will always dig back in when a cold front hits.

If you have kept a turtle or tortoise indoors and have not kept a light on in their enclosure for 12-14 hours per day, your pet may try to go into hibernation. Please note that turtles/tortoises kept indoors can not hibernate properly. For proper hibernation or brumation temperatures must be under 55 degrees. Our homes are too warm for these reptiles to hibernate even when they stop eating and slow down. If you do not increase light exposure to 12-14 hours per day, reptiles in this situation can not raise their metabolisms enough to eat and remain active. They will basically be putting themselves into a starving situation. If their metabolism is too high to hibernate properly but is not high enough to remain active, this requires their body to use up too much energy. This can cause illness and even death.

You should also be aware that species not native to your area may not be designed to hibernate. Tropical species should be kept warm and active. These species should NEVER be allowed to hibernate or you could be condeming them to death. If you have any doubts about whether your turtle or tortoise should be allowed to hibernate outside, please contact the GCTTS. If your indoor housed turtle or tortoise has already fallen into hibernation mode, make sure you have a warm basking light on for 12-14 hours of the day. You might try slightly warm water daily soaks and eventually offer it live earthworms if a box or water turtle. It may take a number of days to get the turtle back out of hibernation mode.

If your turtle or tortoise has been housed indoors, we strongly recommend that you setup an outdoor enclosure for it to go into in the Spring. Tell us your species and ask us how to be better prepared for the next Fall if you should not allow your pet to hibernate.

We have many good care sheets and other informational pages on our website that all turtle or tortoise owners should know about. Here are the links where you can find them:

Captive Care Information

Medical Information

If you have a turtle or tortoise you no longer want, please read this page: Turtle & Tortoise Rescue Program

Copyright (c) 2007 Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society
Permission is granted to copy for non-profit use with proper credit given. For any other use you must obtain permission.

Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society
1227 Whitestone Lane
Houston, TX 77073
Email us for quickest response:

866-99-GCTTS (toll free)