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Hibernation basics (indoor and outdoor)


* If you are not breeding your turtles, they need not hibernate.
* If you keep your turtles indoors, do not hibernate them.
* Never, ever hibernate a turtle that is too skinny or even the slightest sick.
* Hibernation does not mean "freezing." In general, a turtle will not 
  survive freezing. (There are a few exceptions. Baby painted turtles are known
  to stay in their nest for their first winter, and they survive freezing because
  they have anti-freeze in their blood.)

* Water turtles: you basically need a pond that is deep enough so it does not
  freeze all the way down, and some nice mud and debris at the bottom. When it
  gets cold, your turtle will dig itself into the mud or debris, stop eating,
  and go into hibernation until it gets warm again. It is possible for a turtle
  to come up on warm days in spring, only to disappear again for a cold-spell.

* Box turtles: If the turtle lives in a natural outdoor environment, provide 
  a shelter, a nice pile of leaves and debris for the turtle to use for 
  shelter. They like compost piles, and some turtles will even do some digging
  to hid. (Some tortoises burrow seriously.)
  When it gets cool, the turtle will stop eating, find shelter, and go into
  hibernation. On warm days, the turtle will come out.
--------

To hibernate turtles outdoor, a pond 3 feet or deeper is 
generally recommended. The pond has to be deep
enough so that it will not freeze through. If the pond
freezes through, and the turtle with it, there is a good chance
the turtle will not survive. 

There is some research going on about live freezing of fish and
reptiles. It is known that baby painted turtles survive freezing in
their first winter by producing anti-freeze in their bodies. 
The same mechanism has been found in several kinds of fish.
However, turtles whose range does not extend north, in particular
sliders, are not tolerant of freezing. Unless you want your turtle
to become a scientific experiment, don't let it freeze in winter.

Only hibernate a healthy, well-fed turtle. If the turtle is ill or
very skinny, take it indoors for winter.

There also has to be some mud at the bottom. Turtles dig into the dirt/mud/leaves
at the bottom of bodies of water for hibernation. Also, the mud will
protect them from freezing up to a point.

It can also be too warm to hibernate your turtle outdoors. If the
weather is too cold for the turtle to eat and move about much, but 
not cold enough for it to go into proper hibernation, it will use
up too much energy and it will starve. The danger zone is 
around 50 Fahrenheit/10 Celsius. But watch your turtle. If it stops
eating and doesn't move much for several weeks, but you won't get real 
winter where you live, take him inside until it gets warm again.
Cool turtles are also less resistant to disease.

The best way to decide whether to leave your turtle outside is to
find out in which climate the turtle naturally occurs. Field guides
usually include range information, and they are available at most
libraries. Compare the turtle's natural habitat with your own yard.
If there is an overlap, you can try outdoor hibernation.
Also, make sure your turtle is the hibernating kind! Asian box turtles,
for example do not hibernate and will die if left outdoors to freeze.



 If you keep your turtles indoors and are not breeding, you do not need
  to hibernate them.

* If your turtles live outside in the summer, you can take them in
  in winter and need not hibernate them.

* Sliders can be kept outdoors all year in the southern states and will
  hibernate on their own, provided the pond is deep enough and has a
  thick mud bottom for the turtle to bury in.

* Turtles from tropical areas do not hibernate. They will die if you try.

* If you want to hibernate your turtles, refer to one of the books
  listed below.
Actually, I wasn't going to provide any information on this, because I
have not hibernated any turtles myself. However, I get a lot of questions,
so here are a few hints. Refer a good book, or talk to someone who has
hibernated his/her turtles, if you have more questions.

* If you are not breeding your turtles, they need not hibernate.
* If you keep your turtles indoors, do not hibernate them.
* Never, ever hibernate a turtle that is too skinny or even the slightest sick.
* Hibernation does not mean "freezing." In general, a turtle will not 
  survive freezing. (There are a few exceptions. Baby painted turtles are known
  to stay in their nest for their first winter, and they survive freezing because
  they have anti-freeze in their blood.)

* Water turtles: you basically need a pond that is deep enough so it does not
  freeze all the way down, and some nice mud and debris at the bottom. When it
  gets cold, your turtle will dig itself into the mud or debris, stop eating,
  and go into hibernation until it gets warm again. It is possible for a turtle
  to come up on warm days in spring, only to disappear again for a cold-spell.

* Box turtles: If the turtle lives in a natural outdoor environment, provide 
  a shelter, a nice pile of leaves and debris for the turtle to use for 
  shelter. They like compost piles, and some turtles will even do some digging
  to hid. (Some tortoises burrow seriously.)
  When it gets cool, the turtle will stop eating, find shelter, and go into
  hibernation. On warm days, the turtle will come out.
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