Home » What To Do When Your Tortoise Wakes Up from Hibernation Early
tortoise waking up early from hibernation

What To Do When Your Tortoise Wakes Up from Hibernation Early

Most tortoises hibernate between November and February to conserve energy when temperatures get too cold. Disturbances in their environment can awaken them prematurely.

An owner can wake their tortoise by accident by checking on its welfare. If a tortoise has finished most of its 3-month brumation, let it wake up. Provide food, heat, and a soaking tub.

If your tortoise wakes up far too early and appears healthy, you can put it back to sleep. Lower the temperature to less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit and let the tortoise drift off again.

Never let the temperature fall below freezing, as this can be deadly.

Is It Dangerous to Wake a Hibernating Tortoise?

If the hibernation period is already up, it’s not dangerous to wake up a still-hibernating tortoise. As long as you don’t shock it awake, the gentler methods of helping it rise should suffice.

However, you shouldn’t attempt to wake up a hibernating tortoise as this can disrupt its metabolic processes and kick-start the energy reserves needed to get through just one hibernation period.

Should your tortoise fall asleep again without taking the proper precautions, it might not have the energy stores left to awaken a second time.

If it does wake up and stay awake, your tortoise will be much weaker. So, you’ll need to prepare several things for when its hibernation period is nearing an end.

Food

Your tortoise will have a much lower white blood cell count as it’s not eaten in a long time.

So, you need to set up a warm, safe enclosure with fresh greens and water to help the tortoise regain its strength. It’ll be able to regain its bearings sufficiently to move around like normal within 10-14 days.

Bath

It’s a good idea to give it a warm bath. Assist it if its face and eyes remain coated in debris and gunk after the tortoise has washed.

Heat

Let your tortoise bask under a heat lamp set to at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This warms it up, dries it off after the bath, and allows it to eat more.

Your tortoise should return to its usual habits after it has recovered from its hibernated state but check for any signs of illness in the days that follow.

When Do Tortoises Wake Up from Hibernation?

A tortoise can wake up from its hibernation at any time due to normal or illness-related reasons.

The timeframe that works safely for tortoises depends on its:

  • Age
  • Species
  • Enclosure temperature
  • How deeply it has burrowed

According to the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, most tortoises have a unique timeframe. In the above study, different species in different sites and years were tested, and all showed varying results of what would cause each tortoise to go into hibernation and recover from that state.

Wild tortoises often brumate on a different cycle than pet tortoises. Pets are more affected by their environment, heat exposure, food, and enrichment. This means that you’ll need to find out what’s normal for your tortoise.

can tortoises go back into hibernation?

What Month Do Tortoises Wake Up From Hibernation?

No tortoise hibernation period will last the same amount of time. However, numerous studies are conducted on desert tortoise hibernation periods, revealing a generalized pattern.

According to The Journal of Wildlife Management, around 98% of tortoises commenced brumation on or around November 15th.

Researchers observed around 98% or more of their tortoises rising from hibernation around February 15th. Researchers purposefully disturbed half the subjects in an attempt to wake them earlier. However, these tortoises were less provoked by environmental disturbances than pet tortoises.

The Stanhope Veterinary Hospital found that most tortoises shouldn’t hibernate for more than a maximum of 3 months. If your tortoise hasn’t woken up from its hibernation by the end of winter, wake it up yourself.

Can Tortoises Go Back into Hibernation?

Tortoises can return to hibernation when the conditions are right.

You shouldn’t attempt to wake your tortoise during this period. If you accidentally cause your tortoise to rise, you can help it back to sleep by reducing the enclosure’s temperatures.

Tortoises are greatly affected by their surrounding temperatures during hibernation. Lower ranges put them to sleep, while higher ranges wake them up.

TemperatureTortoise Condition
35 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (for aquatic tortoises)Hibernation is characterized by lowered metabolic processes and lowered activity levels
40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (for land-based tortoises)Hibernation is characterized by lowered metabolic processes and lowered activity levels
50 to 55 degrees FahrenheitIt may be too warm for a tortoise, so it’ll start to awaken
60 degrees FahrenheitWarm enough for a tortoise to rise from hibernation completely

Should I Put My Tortoise Back Into Hibernation?

This does not mean it’s safe for you to force your tortoise back into hibernation each time it wakes up early.

However, if the current temperature in your home has reached 50 degrees Fahrenheit, let your tortoise awaken from its hibernation. Forcing it back to sleep can have adverse health consequences.

Additionally, don’t keep your tortoise at temperatures below freezing, as this could cause sickness or death.

Some owners place their tortoise tanks outside or in their garage during winter hibernation. Tortoises with an outdoor enclosure may even burrow themselves in a safe spot in your backyard.

Check your local winter temperatures first. If they’re sub 32 degrees Fahrenheit, this will be dangerous.

Should I Wake My Tortoise from Hibernation?

You should normally allow your tortoise to sleep through its entire hibernation period.

However, there are times when you can wake it up:

Oversleeping

If the winter has passed and the tortoise has still not woken up, you should coax it awake.

This can be done by slowly warming the enclosure up. Higher temperatures let a tortoise know it’s near spring and it’s safe to wake up. Its metabolism will also increase, which can make your tortoise feel hungry enough to rise.

You can set the tortoise’s enclosure by a heater or radiator (though not so close as to cause burns upon waking). You can also place your tortoise underneath a heat lamp to assist its metabolic processes.

Typically, tortoises will take around 2 hours to arise from hibernation.

Illnesses

Coax your tortoise awake if you notice anything strange around its burrow as tortoises are still susceptible to illnesses.

Look for these signs to check if your tortoise is healthy:

  • Weight loss that’s greater than 1% of its pre-hibernation body weight a month.
  • Significant activity in its burrow, which is a sign that your tortoise has failed to enter hibernation.
  • Any signs of illness, such as nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, and other negative respiratory symptoms.
  • Lumps, swelling, scrapes, or cuts on its exposed skin
  • Pinkness around its shell
  • A strange odor, especially around its tail
  • Signs that the tortoise has urinated or defecated when it should still be asleep

Should any of these occur, you’ll need to wake up your tortoise before taking it to your veterinarian. Often, these are indicators of serious illness.

If your tortoise wakes from hibernation, you can put it back to sleep, helping it to recover as it wakes up. As long as there are no signs of illness and your tortoise has completed most of its hibernation, you can allow it to rise.