How to Care for a Hibernating Turtle Properly

By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Care for a Hibernating Turtle Properly

Many cold-blooded animals, such as turtles, and other mammals such as bears, hibernate during the coldest months of the year in order to protect against low temperatures and successfully overcome the period when there is less food. In the case of turtles not all species hibernate, but those that do need to be properly prepared to support those weeks without food. Not being in their natural environment, it is essential that you are clear about how to take care to ensure that they successfully make it through this stage. On we explain how to care for a hibernating turtle properly.

You may also be interested in: How to feed turtles

Not all turtles hibernate

The first thing to be clear is that just because you have a turtle does not mean that this turtle will have to hibernate, not all species do. When you buy a turtle is very important to be clear of its kind, the kind of climate where it comes from and all their habits in order to keep it healthy.

The turtle species that hibernate are:

  • The Gopherus or desert
  • The Trachemys scripta or Red-eared
  • The Testudo horsfieldii or Russian tortoise
  • The Clemmys Insculpata or wood turtles
  • The Clemmys Guttata or spotted turtles
  • Box turtles

If your pet is for any of these types, then you must be clear how to care for it while it hibernates.

When do turtles begin to hibernate?

In their natural environment turtles begin to hibernate when temperatures begin to fall and are below 10°C (50°F). Overall the hibernation process should take between 3 to 6 months, depending on the climate in which the animal is naturally found.

The animal is usually prepared for this process and stops eating three weeks before hibernation in order to completely empty their bowels, as if hibernate with them full of food their health could be adversely affected. Once temperatures drop, the animal begins to hibernate, a process which should be completely healthy in order to make it through successfully.

How to Care for a Hibernating Turtle Properly - When do turtles begin to hibernate?

When should turtles not be hibernating?

It is important to prevent turtles from hibernating if:

  • The animal is very underweight or ill.
  • If their shell is broken or damaged.
  • If they are dehydrated.
  • If the turtle has an egg inside.

In these cases or if your pet is just unhealthy, it is best to create an environment in your terrarium or aquarium where the temperature is similar to the summer, so they will not feel the need hibernate and can properly recover. Otherwise they will die.

How to Care for a Hibernating Turtle Properly - When should turtles not be hibernating?

How to care for a turtle while it hibernates

To begin with, before hibernation it is important to make sure your turtle has not eaten for weeks. In addition it must remove all waste from its intestines, if it doesn't submerge the turtle in water at 30°C (86°F) and leave it there until they have been evacuated.

Once the animal is ready it will start to be lethargic until hibernating, at this point keep in mind:

  • The ideal temperature at which you should keep your turtle is between 6°C (42.8 °F) and 10°C (50°F). If it exceeds 10°C (50°F) the turtle will come out of hibernation.
  • The aquarium, terrarium or box where you keep the animal must be in a cool, dark place. You should eliminate hot spots and check the temperature frequently to ensure it is adequate.
  • In the case of water turtles, they must be perfectly clean before hibernating. If they urinate or defecate during hibernation, you must change the water and clean the tank. If the turtle is in a box and urinates or defecates, you must also replace the box.
  • Turtles that hibernate indoors and out of the water can become dehydrated. If you notice their skin and shell are dry, immerse the animal in water less than 10°C (50 °F) and leave it there for a couple of hours. Then take it out and return it to its place of hibernation. Do this whenever necessary.
  • If your turtle hibernates away from home, in the garden, make sure it does so in a safe place, free from attack by predators or other animals. It is also important that its site is not in danger of getting wet with rain. Monitor your pet often and if you see that it is awake it is best to take it indoors and prepare a box with the right environmental conditions for it to hibernate in.
  • When temperatures begin to rise and the animal wakes up, restore their usual food and habitat. For any questions or problems, contact a specialized veterinarian.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Care for a Hibernating Turtle Properly, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

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1 comment
Bert Fafard
Hi, I have a healthy adult female spotted turtle. Housed in a 10 gal. tank with damp potting soil .She is in Brumation, but is up & about all day. Only burrows in at night to sleep. July 5 she laid eggs & she is fine . Should I try acclimating her to aquatic life & feeding again ? Every day I put her in another 10 gal. tank with a couple inches of water to drink ! Please Respond Bert Thanks
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