Desert Tortoise – Ready for Hibernation!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. We have been really busy with tree work! I have also had a problem with backing up my photos lately, which is still not resolved yet. But, I wanted to get this out before the news is too old!

We took our Desert Tortoise, Obadiah, to the Phoenix Herpetological Society’s “Hibernation Clinic” as required by our agreement with them to possess a Desert Tortoise.

Daniel looks for parasites in the microscope!

They had a veterinarian – Dr. Driggers, who specializes in exotic animals (including Desert Tortoises) there at the clinic to do checkups. First, Obadiah was measured and weighed. His actual weight was compared with what would be considered “ideal” for his size. They allow a tortoise to be up to 10% low in body weight and still hibernate – Obadiah came out at 7%, so he is OK! We feel he is a little low in weight due to the upper respiratory tract infection he has just come through (he missed a lot of eating time!).

The Dr. also checked a stool sample for parasites. He let Daniel look in the scope (which Daniel enjoyed!) and told Daniel what to look for. There were some parasites there, but not enough to be worried about. Desert Tortoise stools look like a little grass football, surprisingly large for the animal’s size. We were letting them compost as fertilizer for the grass in the enclosure. The Dr. explained that the parasites hatch out of their eggs and crawl over to a blade of grass, where they wait to be eaten by a tortoise! We are now cleaning out the enclosure whenever we see a stool with the hopes that this will cut Obadiah’s parasite load down to an even lower level. The Dr. did say that dry air and sunlight will kill the parasite eggs and so we were probably not creating an extremely dangerous situation for Obadiah by letting the stools compost – still we want to do what we can so that Obadiah stays healthy!

Obadiah Entering His Den for Hibernation

No, this is not a picture of Obadiah entering his den, never to emerge until next spring. He still comes out on nice warm afternoons to graze on a little grass. But his appetite is way down – we were told by the Dr. to not feed him anything extra. Obadiah is supposed to clear out his system before he goes to sleep for the winter. He knows how to do this, and exactly when to do this – we just need to stay out of the way! When I think he is not going to come out any more I plan to pack some native grass hay into the opening to his den so that it stays drier and warmer inside. Then, we will look forward to his coming out again in the spring!