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Do Sulcata Tortoises Hibernate? Everything You Need To Know

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Sulcata tortoises are native to South America. They live in tropical rainforests and eat fruits, nuts, leaves, flowers, seeds, and insects.

Sulcata tortoises on wood chips

These animals are also known as the “tortoise of the Andes” because they spend their winters in caves or under rocks.

Sulcata Tortoises are considered vulnerable species due to habitat destruction and poaching. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as Vulnerable.

This animal can tolerate some low temperatures,  but it cannot survive if it is exposed to extreme cold. If you live in a place that doesn’t get too cold, then you don’t need to worry too much.

However, if you live somewhere with extreme winters, you’ll need to make sure your little Sulcata is kept toasty and warm. 

The average temperature of a Sulcata Tortoise’s home during winter is between 50 °F and 55 °F.

Natural History of Sulcata Tortoises

The Sulcata tortoise is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela, and some parts of Guyana.

These animals have been reported to be able to live up to 60 years old. However, most individuals die before reaching this age.

Habitat Destruction

Because of deforestation, Sulcata tortoise populations are declining rapidly. Habitat destruction causes a decrease in the amount of vegetation that provides shelter for these animals.


Poachers capture Sulcata tortoises by using traps and snares. Some people even kill them with guns.

Conservation Efforts

There are many conservation efforts being made to protect Sulcata tortoise populations. For example, the government of Colombia has created an area where the animals can live freely.

They have also started building artificial shelters so that the animals will not need to sleep outside.

What Is Hibernation?

When you think about hibernation, you probably imagine bears sleeping all winter inside their dens. But what do you know? There are other creatures that hibernate too!

Hibernating sulcata tortoises

In fact, there are over 1,000 different types of mammals that hibernate. Some of them include bats, squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, marmots, and prairie dogs.

Animals that hibernate don’t just stay asleep all year round. Instead, they use energy stores to keep themselves warm and safe until spring arrives.

During hibernation, an animal’s body will slow down its metabolic rate. Their heart beats slower, breathing becomes shallower, and blood pressure decreases.

During hibernation, an animal’s body will produce less heat than usual, so it will lose more heat than it normally would. That’s why they need to conserve energy so that they don’t get cold.

Do Sulcata Tortoises Hibernate?

Sulcata tortoises do not hibernate during the winter.

They are able to tolerate low temperatures, but they need enough warmth, so their bodies don’t shut down, which is what can happen if they are exposed to extremely low temperatures for a long period of time. 

How To Take Care Of A Sulcata Tortoise In The Winter

If you want to take care of a Sulcata tortoise during the winter months, then you should provide it with a comfortable environment.

You must ensure that you are not keeping it outdoors during the winter months.

Once the temperature drops to below 55 degrees F, it is time to bring it indoors. 

If you fail to do this, then you could expose it to extreme weather conditions. This could lead to frostbite, hypothermia, and death.

You should also make sure that you are providing it with a dry place to hide in when it gets dark. During the day, you should be checking on it often to see how it is doing.

Make sure that it has access to fresh water.

You should also make sure that it has plenty of food available. You can feed it insects or crickets. Furthermore, you can also give it some dried fruits, such as raisins and figs.

Shelter For Sulcata Tortoises In Winter

There are many ways that you can help your Sulcata tortoise survive the winter. One way is by creating a shelter for it. You can create a small box for it to nestle into.

You can also build a larger enclosure for it.

If you decide to build a large enclosure, then you should put rocks and logs in it to act as insulation.

You can also add straw to the bottom of the enclosure to prevent any moisture from getting trapped.

You can also find a place in your home to house it that is fairly warm. This could be a basement or garage that is heated or insulated. If you have space, you can even set up an igloo-like structure for it.

Heating For Sulcata Tortoises In Winter

If you live in an area where winters are mild, then you don’t have to worry about heating your Sulcata tortoises enclosure.

Sulcata tortoises on hay grass

However, if you live somewhere where the winters are colder, then you will need to provide it with heat.

You can use a heater to keep the air inside the enclosure warmer. You can also purchase a heat lamp to provide light and warmth. These are both inexpensive options.

You can also buy a thermostat that is designed specifically for reptiles. There are different types of thermostats available. Some are battery-operated, while others require AC power.

Cold Weather Safety For Sulcata Tortoises

When you are taking care of your Sulcata tortoise during the winter months, you should always remember that cold weather can be dangerous.

Your tortoise’s body is made out of skin and muscle. When these tissues get too cold, they begin to contract, which can cause them to die.

The best thing that you can do to protect your tortoise is to keep its body warm. If you are unable to do this, then there are other things that you can do.

One option is to wrap it in blankets. You can also cover it with towels or rugs. You can also place it in a cage that is kept at a constant temperature.

Another option is to keep it in a heated enclosure. You can either use a heater or simply leave it outside during the day.

If you notice that your tortoise is shivering, then you should try to figure out why. Is it because it is cold? Or is it because it is sick? If it is cold, then you should bring it indoors.

If it is sick, then you should contact your vet immediately.

Winter Care For Sulcata Tortoise: The Final Word

The fact that these tortoises don’t hibernate, means you need to take extra care of them during the cold winter months.

It is vital that they don’t get wet and cold at the same time, as this could lead to some serious issues.

As long as you take good care of your Sulcata tortoise throughout the year, it should be able to handle the winter without any problems.

However, if you neglect it, then you may end up losing it. So, make sure that you pay attention to it so that you can avoid this problem.

Tortoises are lovely additions to families. They are clean and can entertain themselves fairly easily as long as they are given enough stimulation in their enclosure.

You can even pick up your tortoise and play with it, but you must remember to wash your hands after coming into contact with it.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.