Bruce Explains Box Turtles: Timing Hibernation

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Bruce half-in and half-out of his hay as he picks just the right moment to start his brumation.

In a previous post, we talked about hibernation, or brumation if it is a reptile like Bruce who is hibernating.

Since then, Bruce and his mommy have fielded several questions about the timing of his annual hibernation. Most of the questions have focused on how we know (or how I know that Bruce knows) it is “time” for him to brumate.

First, I have to say that Bruce is definitely the one who knows it is time. And I am the one who watches him day in and day out to try to figure out when he is ready.

One good way I’ve found to narrow down the possible date range is to watch the weather forecast. Even though weather people often seem to make the same kinds of wild guesses I make when attempting to predict future weather, in this case I am only looking at a single factor: evening temperatures.

When the evening temperatures are predicted to consistently fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a few nights in a row, I go ahead and break out the hay and place it in one corner of his outdoor habitat.

(We use hay to hibernate Bruce because of how his outdoor habitat is set up – this was our fabulous vet’s idea of how to provide him with cheap, warming insulation).

Bruce sitting on top of a whole lot of fresh hay inside his outdoor enclosure. If I was a vet, I would call this area his “hibernaculum,” which is a fancy and hard to pronounce technical term that translates to mean “the place where Bruce will hibernate.”

I then wait to see what Bruce does next. If he crawls into the layers of hay and doesn’t come out for a day or few, I add more hay and wait for the temperatures to drop some more, especially during the daytime.

Once the daytime temps are hitting 65 degrees Fahrenheit and lower during the day and even lower at night, I wrap the “hibernation end” of Bruce’s habitat in insulating thick plastic to give him further protection from the cold air, wind, rain, ice, and (in rare seasons) frost or even light snowfall.

This is not an exact science, by the way. Because we live in the tropical South, he may pop in and out of his hay several times before the weather stabilizes on the “cold” setting. For this reason, I also don’t stop feeding him three weeks prior to his hibernation start date the way hibernation experts recommend, because he doesn’t really have a hibernation start date.

If we lived in the colder north where “fall” and “winter” are actual tangible seasons that come one after the other in the orderly fashion they are supposed to, I would pick out a hibernation date and stop the meals and soak him to empty his bowels and all that.

But here in Houston, TX, we do the best we can, and I trust him to do what he’s been doing all on his own for several years before he came to live with us.

And remember….



And remember…..

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Published by Shannon Cutts

Animal sensitive and intuitive with Animal Love Languages. Parrot, tortoise and box turtle mama. Dachshund auntie.

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