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what to do with a dead tortoise

How To Dispose of A Dead Tortoise

Last Updated on October 15, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Although tortoises have long lifespans, you must still prepare for their passing.

Give yourself time to mourn, but grieving the death of your tortoise for 2 to 3 days without preparations should be avoided. Disposing of the body the right way and promptly is strongly advised.

To dispose of a dead tortoise, you can bury it in the yard or pet cemetery.

When burying a tortoise, you can preserve its shell or allow it to decompose. It must be buried 3 to 4 feet down, and place something heavy on the grave so wild animals can’t dig it up.

Alternatively, you can cremate a tortoise. The crematorium will return the ashes or dispose of them. While cremation is more expensive, it can make the grieving process more bearable.

When cremating a tortoise, the costs range from $40 to $350, with added services such as pickup, viewing rooms, and urns available.

What To Do With A Dead Tortoise

If your tortoise has passed away, you must tend to its corpse within a few days. The longer you keep the corpse in the outdoor enclosure, the more it decomposes.

Decomposing corpses can spread diseases, making the area unhygienic, which attracts bugs.

Predators may gather due to the smell, which will be strong and unpleasant. So, move the corpse from the enclosure and put it somewhere wild animals can’t reach it.

Never touch a dead animal without protective gloves. If you touch the corpse without gloves, wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Once that’s handled, you can decide how to lay your pet tortoise to rest.

To dispose of a dead tortoise, you have two options: burial and cremation.

Before you proceed, take some precautions:

Check If It’s Brumating

Confirm that the tortoise is dead and not brumating. Tortoises can descend into a heavy sleep during cold weather, so they may appear dead at first.

You’ll know your tortoise is deceased because it won’t:

  • Respond to touching or prodding.
  • Wake up after you increase the temperature to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Move around.
  • Pass waste.
  • Make sounds.

If the tortoise begins to smell and rot, it’s likely dead. Nonetheless, it may be worth contacting your vet.

Certain infections can produce a foul odor, even when the tortoise is alive. These shouldn’t have the distinct dead animal smell, but it’s better to check if you’re unfamiliar with the odor.

how to bury a dead tortoise

Consulting a Vet for Pithing

According to the Companion Animal, tortoises should undergo pithing before burying or cremating them. This involves piercing the brain of the dead tortoise to ensure all brain function has ceased.

There are times when illness, injury, old age, or euthanasia can render the tortoise non-functional, but it’ll still have brain activity.

The heart may continue to beat even once rigor mortis has set in. Tortoises have evolved to survive on little oxygen, so they could be technically alive even if all hope of survival has gone.

It’s terrible to think of, but the tortoise may still be capable of feeling pain in this state, even if it’s virtually dead. Vets often recommend that pithing be conducted on the tortoise if it can’t be resuscitated.

Pithing ensures that the brain is destroyed and the animal is at peace before the cremation or burial.

What Happens If a Tortoise Dies in Home?

If your tortoise dies in your home or an indoor tank, the disposal methods will be nearly identical.

The only difference is that you should take the corpse outside. Decomposition can start within 1-2 days, producing a foul smell that attracts pests. Also, you don’t want to be exposed to bacteria.

How To Bury A Dead Tortoise

You can bury a dead tortoise if you have land or a yard. Alternatively, you can contact a local veterinary clinic to ask for disposal options or contact a nearby pet cemetery.

There are two ways to bury a dead tortoise, depending on whether you want to preserve the shell.

To bury a tortoise, dig a grave 3-4 feet deep, as it’ll protect against floodwater and scavengers. Use biodegradable products if you’re burying anything other than the dead tortoise’s corpse.

Keeping The Body Inside A Box for Burial

If you don’t want to preserve your tortoise’s shell, you can bury the corpse as-is.

The most suitable method is placing it inside an adequately sized, biodegradable box. You can bury it underground, at around 4 feet deep.

Some owners prefer to wrap their tortoise’s body in several plastic layers to prevent decay, but it isn’t environmentally friendly and won’t benefit anyone at this stage.

You can top the grave with a mini tombstone and plant flowers to honor the memory of your pet tortoise. Then, place something heavy on the grave to ensure wild animals can’t dig up the resting place.

Burial To Preserve the Tortoise’s Shell

You can also bury a dead tortoise in a way that preserves its shell. According to Biological Sciences, a dead tortoise can decompose for up to 18 months.

If you want to keep the shell, do the following:

  1. Bury the tortoise 3 feet down, wrapped in plastic with some holes around it.
  2. Attach a rope to the corpse and ensure that part of it sticks out of the ground.
  3. It can take 3-12 months for your flesh to decompose.
  4. Once the flesh has decomposed, use the rope to pull the bones out.
  5. Detach the shell for preservation.
  6. Bury the bones again in the same place, without any plastic or rope.

Can a Tortoise Be Cremated?

Many cremation facilities in the United States offer special services and have crematoriums for pets, and they’re often the same businesses that provide cremation services for humans.

Cremating a tortoise allows you to cherish your pet forever since you can keep the remains. If the tortoise has been part of your family for a long time, it’s normal to want to keep its memory alive forever.

Most people hold onto their pets’ ashes and keep them in a special place in their homes.

How To Cremate A Tortoise

There are three methods to cremate a tortoise:

Private Cremation

Private cremation allows you to receive your individual pet tortoise’s ashes.

However, it won’t be alone in the cremation chamber by itself. Instead, it’ll be placed inside with other dead animals. Nonetheless, there will be separators between different animals, and the ashes won’t mix.

A private cremation lies between the most expensive and least expensive cremation options. With this process, the crematorium guarantees you’ll only receive your pet’s ashes.

You might have access to a viewing room to watch the process, but you’ll have to share it with others.

Witnessed Cremation

Witnessed cremation is more personal but also the most expensive. You’re guaranteed to be in the viewing room for this cremation, and your pet tortoise will be alone in the cremation chamber.

A designated viewing area will be for you and your loved ones who want to attend. You won’t have to share the space with anyone else.

Witnessed cremation is recommended if you place value on witnessing the process. For some, this can bring closure, allow them to grieve their tortoise’s death, and enable them to move forward.

Communal Cremation

Communal cremation is the most popular and least expensive cremation for reptiles. Your tortoise’s corpse will be placed in the cremation chamber or with other animals in a communal cremation.

There will be no separators between the animals. So, if you choose to receive the ashes, they’ll not specifically be your pet’s ashes since they’ll all be combined. Usually, the ashes aren’t returned.

Communal cremation doesn’t offer a viewing room, and it’s not ideal if you want to be a part of the process or are dedicated to receiving your pet’s ashes.

However, it’s more affordable while being respectful to the animals.

can a tortoise be cremated?

How Much Does It Cost to Cremate a Tortoise?

The cremation of reptiles is often charged by the weight of the dead animal, not by the species.

Some crematoriums charge extra for cremating exotic reptiles or animals that have died from illnesses or infectious diseases.

The cremation cost usually varies between $50 and $350, depending on the reptile’s weight. Communal cremation costs the least because no ashes are returned, while witnessed cremation costs the most since it allows viewing and returning the ashes to the owner.

There are extra services that can make the cremation process more memorable for you, including:

Pickup Costs

Some crematoriums offer pickup services if you can’t bring the dead tortoise to the crematorium. The price may increase if the pickup time is on the weekend, after business hours, or during the holidays.

The pickup cost is around $40, but the price varies based on the time of year and distance traveled.

Viewing Costs

If viewing isn’t included in the cremation package, it’ll cost you $40 extra and more if you want to use the crematorium for you and your family.

Urn/Special Container Costs

A basic urn or container to hold your tortoise’s ashes will cost $100.

However, if you choose a more elaborate earn, the cost can increase to $1,000. You can find urns and containers online and bring your own to the crematorium to have your tortoise’s ashes deposited.

Disposing of a dead tortoise can be an unpleasant and heartbreaking task, but doing it within a reasonable budget and with due respect can make the grieving process easier.

Whether you choose to bury or cremate your pet tortoise, do so within 2-3 days of its death so that it can transition to its final resting place.