When Does A Tortoise Hibernate

Tortoises are known for their slow and steady nature, but did you know that they hibernate for part of the year? Hibernation is an essential adaptation for tortoises, enabling them to survive the cold winter months and conserve energy. But when do tortoises actually hibernate? If you are a tortoise lover curious about these questions, you have come to the right place!

When Tortoise Hibernate
When Tortoise Hibernate

One of the most exciting aspects of tortoise behavior is their ability to hibernate during cold temperatures and food scarcity. Understanding when and how tortoises hibernate can help us better appreciate the complex behavior of these remarkable animals. In this article, we’ll explore the answer to your questions and provide tips on properly caring for a tortoise during its hibernation period.

What Is Hibernation for A Tortoise?

Hibernation is an essential physiological process for tortoises that helps them survive the winter months when food is scarce, and temperatures drop. During hibernation, a tortoise’s body temperature, heart rate, and metabolism all slow down, allowing it to conserve energy and survive with less food.

What Is Hibernation for A Tortoise?
What Is Hibernation for A Tortoise

Hibernation is triggered by the change in day length and temperature during autumn. As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, a tortoise’s metabolism and activity level slow down, causing it to become less active. It will stop eating, burrow into the ground, or find a sheltered spot, such as a hollow log or rock crevice. Once it has found a suitable location, it will remain there until spring, when the days become longer and the temperature rises.

During hibernation, a tortoise’s metabolic rate and heart rate slow down significantly, allowing it to survive on the small amount of energy it has stored up during the summer months. Its body temperature also drops, allowing it to save energy by not having to maintain a constant body temperature.

When To Hibernate

Tortoises are known for their slow and steady behavior, which is why they are often admired as an example of perseverance. But when do they hibernate? The answer to that question depends on the tortoise species and the climate they inhabit.

When To Hibernate
When To Hibernate

Tortoises that live in temperate climates often hibernate during the winter, when temperatures are too cold to remain active. This is especially true of species like the Russian tortoise and Hermann’s tortoise. During hibernation, these tortoises slow down their metabolic rate and enter a state of torpor or dormancy. This allows them to survive the cold winter months without using too much energy.

In tropical climates, however, tortoises may not hibernate at all. Species like the red-footed tortoise and the African spurred tortoise are native to warm temperatures and can remain active year-round. During the dry season, these tortoises may enter a state of aestivation, similar to hibernation but occurs during hot and dry weather.

What Happens When A Tortoise Hibernates?

When tortoises hibernate, they typically find a burrow or den in the ground, or even under the surface of a body of water, and settle for a long winter’s sleep. Hibernation for tortoises typically occurs between October and March, depending on the species and the climate of their habitat. During hibernation, tortoises will not eat or drink and remain in their burrow or den until the weather warms up.

What Happens When A Tortoise Hibernates?
What Happens When A Tortoise Hibernates

The tortoises will slowly wake up and move around when the temperatures rise. At this point, they will become increasingly active and begin to feed and drink again. During the spring and summer, tortoises will bask in the sun to warm their bodies and soak up the vital vitamin D needed to stay healthy.

What are the Signs of Tortoise Hibernation?

Tortoises are reptiles known to hibernate during the winter months, a period of dormancy to conserve energy and survive in colder temperatures. During hibernation, a tortoise’s heart rate, breathing, and other functions slow down drastically, and they may remain in this state for several months. If you have a pet tortoise, it is crucial to be aware of the signs of hibernation in the following points to provide the best care for your pet.

1. Looking For Hiding Places

The first sign that a tortoise is preparing for hibernation is that it will start to look for cool, dark places to hide. They may also spend more time in burrows or underground, seeking shelter from the cold. 

2. Becoming Less Active and Lose Appetite

Your pet may become increasingly lethargic, spending most of its time sleeping and not being interested in its food or environment. You may also notice that your tortoise’s appetite has decreased significantly, and may stop eating altogether.

3. Decreasing Body Temperature

Another sign of tortoise hibernation is a decrease in body temperature. A tortoise’s body temperature may drop to as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit and become cold to the touch. During this time, it is essential to ensure that your pet is kept in a warm, dry environment.

The Box Method
Decreasing Body Temperature

How Can You Help A Tortoise Hibernate?

Tortoises are reptiles that hibernate during the colder winter months, so it is crucial to understand how to help a tortoise hibernate properly. Hibernation helps tortoises conserve energy and survive the winter in cold climates. Here are some methods you can do to help your tortoise hibernate properly.

1. The Fridge Method

Correct, storing your tortoise in the fridge will help it to hibernate well. You will need a larger box than your tortoise to use this technique. We recommend you choose plastic boxes because they are simple to clean and sterilize. For the tortoise’s safety, ensure the box has a few air holes. Substrate materials like aspen shavings, shredded paper, and sterile dirt should be poured into the container.

The tortoise must be kept between 34 to 50 Fahrenheit to maintain hibernation. Due to concerns about food safety, it is advisable to utilize a separate refrigerator rather than one used to keep food. The fridge should be put in a space where the temperature will remain above freezing throughout the winter.

2. The Box Method

In this method, you can secure your tortoise in the box in the garage or shed. You will need two boxes for this method. One container must be large enough to accommodate the tortoise and have openings so it can breathe. This box must fit inside the other box. For insulation, stuff these boxes with shredded paper. Similar to the earlier procedure, both boxes must maintain a temperature between 37 and 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

When Does A Tortoise Hibernate
The Box Method

Make sure there are no pest or flooding issues with the shed where you plan to keep the tortoise. Additionally, you must make sure that no other creatures may get to your tortoise. Further, you must ensure that the temperature in this location stays the same.

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The Hibernating Tortoise Tips

Tortoises can remain in this hibernation state for several weeks or even months, depending on the species and the environment’s temperature. During this period, they need to stay in a safe, secure location so that they don’t become prey to other animals or suffer from exposure to the elements. In the following paragraphs, we will elaborate more about what you can do as a pet owner before, during, and after the tortoise hibernation period.

1. Check Your Tortoise’s Health Condition

First, you should make sure your tortoise is healthy before it enters hibernation. Take it to the vet for a checkup and ensure it is free of any illnesses or parasites. You should also ensure your tortoise is not overweight, as being overweight can cause hibernation problems.

2. Create Ideal Hibernation Place

In addition, you should create an ideal hibernation environment for your tortoise. You can store your pet in a box with plenty of insulation. The area should be cool but not too cold, and the humidity should be between 40% and 60%. You should also make sure that your pet has plenty of fresh air and that the area is well-ventilated.

We recommend you maintain a temperature of 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit for your tortoise. The tortoise will be kept warm enough to continue digesting his most recent meal, but it will also be cool enough to alert his body that brumation time is approaching. Maintain this temperature for three weeks with your tortoise.

3. Prepare Healthy Diet

Moreover, you should provide your tortoise with plenty of food and water before it enters hibernation. Your tortoise will need to store enough energy and nutrients to make it through the winter months. Ensure its diet is high in protein and contains plenty of fresh water.

Prepare Healthy Diet
Prepare Healthy Diet

4. Fast Your Tortoise

After your tortoise gets a healthy diet, we recommend you fast your tortoise for two to six weeks before hibernation. However, regularly weigh your tortoise and keep a log. Your tortoise shouldn’t drop too much weight.

5. Warm Baths

Give your tortoise a warm wash daily in a shallow dish of water to remove any lingering fecal matter from his digestive tract. This encourages him to drink a lot and pass excrement, which will help his stomach get better. A tortoise with a full stomach or intestines shouldn’t be allowed to hibernate. The accumulation of bacteria could make it ill.

6. Weight Your Pet Regularly

Just before putting your tortoises away for hibernation, weigh them. A tortoise should lose about 1% of its bulk per month; therefore, during a three-month hibernation, a 1.5kg tortoise would drop 45g. Contrary to popular belief, it is false to say that you shouldn’t check on or weigh a hibernating tortoise. If they urinate, remove them from hibernation immediately because they could become dehydrated.

7. Wake Up Hibernating Tortoise

Your tortoise is ready to awaken after a maximum of 12 weeks; this should be done gently by gradually warming them up towards the conclusion of hibernation. Place the enclosure near a heated source, such as a heating pad set on low, a red light bulb, or a ceramic heat source, and then adjust the temperature until it reaches between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You should also ensure the enclosure is humid, as tortoises prefer a higher-humidity environment. Once the tortoise starts to warm up and move around, you can offer it food and water to hydrate it. Or, a shallow bath can provide hydration to your pet as well.

When Does A Tortoise Hibernate
Wake Up Hibernating Tortoise


Finally, tortoises hibernate in winter until early spring, when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During hibernation, they slow down their metabolism, reducing the need for food and water. Hibernation is essential for the tortoise’s survival, giving them the time to rest and conserve energy until the weather is favorable. As a pet owner, we hope our informative article can give you more insights while helping your tortoise during hibernation.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do I know if my tortoise is hibernating?

If your tortoise appears to be sleeping more than usual and is not active, it may be hibernating. Other signs of hibernation include a decrease in appetite, a reduction in weight, and a drop in body temperature; you can see them shivering or trembling. If your tortoise is hibernating, it will generally remain in its hibernation location until winter is over. Usually, they will burrow into the substrate or hide in cool, dark places.

What month do tortoises start to hibernate?

Tortoises typically start hibernating in October or November and may emerge from hibernation in April or May. Tortoises typically begin hibernating in the late fall or early winter when the temperatures drop, and food becomes scarce. This helps them survive the cold winter months when food is low and the temperatures are too hard for them to be active.

How long should a tortoise hibernate?

Tortoises typically hibernate for 4 months, usually from late fall to early spring. This is done to survive the cold winter temperatures and a lack of food. During hibernation, their metabolism slows significantly, allowing them to stay with minimal food and water intake.

What happens if you wake a hibernating tortoise?

If a hibernating tortoise is woken up, it can become disoriented and confused. It may also become very stressed and scared and may even try to bite. It can also refuse to feed, burn up its stored fat and energy, and eventually start to deteriorate. So, it is best to leave hibernating animals undisturbed.

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