Are you looking to own a Hermann Tortoise? Then you’re going to need to know whether they hibernate. Besides, it will have quite considerable ramifications on their care. Here is what you need to know.
So, do Hermann tortoises hibernate? Hermann tortoises hibernate in the wild and can do so when kept in captivity. Although, they will only do so if the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Hibernation commonly lasts for between 10-12 weeks, starting in the late fall (autumn) and ending in early spring.
Like with any tortoise species, if you recreate their natural habitat, you will go a long way in meeting their needs.
And for the Hermann, this is a tortoise that descends from Mediterranean Europe.
So, they certainly have a specific climate they are biologically primed for.
And what is that, in a nutshell?
Well, the Mediterranean climate is typically dry summers and a mild, wet winter.
Housing a Hermann, therefore, must take this in mind.
They generally do not fair well indoors, so housing them outside comes advised.
Thankfully, they are not too large, 13-20 cm (5-8 inches) in length and around 5kg, but accommodating can be challenging.
Sometimes more so, depending on where you live and your local climate. Remember, it should closely resemble that of the Mediterranean.
Practically, this means daytime temperatures of between 80°-86° Fahrenheit (27°-30 Celsius) and never below 650-70° Fahrenheit (18°-21° Celsius) during the night.
If and when it does, particularly during the colder months, they’ll either look to hibernate and/or you will need to move them indoors.
Let us now take a closer look at the specifics of hibernation in these tortoises, so you know what to expect should you decide to take one in.
What Age Do Hermann Tortoises Hibernate?
In the wild, a Hermann Tortoise will hibernate from their first winter and when the conditions become adverse. In captivity, the first time a Hermann will hibernate has a lot to do with the owner, how they are being kept and when hibernation is induced.
It comes advised for most new owners, to begin to hibernate a Hermann between the ages of 1-3 years old.
During those first few years, the owner would ‘overwinter’ their tortoise to keep them awake during this time. This will typically involve environment manipulation, if kept outside, to ensure the conditions do not become too severe for hibernation to occur.
It would likely mean bringing them inside, too.
However, more experienced tortoise keepers will hibernate their tortoises from a hatchling for a shorter period of 4 weeks to begin with.
Hibernating a hatchling and young tortoise is challenging. With the many aspects of hibernation to consider, it requires some knowledge and expertise to do so successfully.
Otherwise, the tortoise is at risk of survival.
So, a Hermann tortoise can theoretically hibernate from any age. But, when they actually do is another matter altogether.
Do I Have To Hibernate My Hermann Tortoise?
It is generally advised to hibernate a Hermann tortoise. However, there is debate as to whether this is considered a necessity to their health and longevity.
Here is why.
Hibernation is something that a tortoise will do out of survival.
When temperatures dramatically decline, and food is scarce.
As such, a tortoise will slow down its metabolism and rate of energy expenditure and will instead conserve energy. To survive.
It’s an entirely natural and reactive state to adversity. And for the Hermann tortoise, they are biologically primed to be able to effectively do so.
In the wild, it is not natural for them to be awake and eating every single day of the year.
But in captivity, it is different. At least it should be.
Owners can carefully control the environment, ensuring that a Hermann tortoise is kept in optimal conditions year-round.
Should they? Well, there are plenty of owners who report keeping tortoises for years, never hibernating them, and not seeing any adverse health in their tortoises.
Or at least they suspect, and in the short term.
But it’s certainly something to question.
There is no evidence to suggest it is ‘healthier’ despite this commonly being raised.
But it all does depend on context.
It depends on where a Hermann is being housed, where they are being kept, and most importantly if they are healthy enough to hibernate.
The truth is, not all tortoises should hibernate.
They need to be adequately healthy to do so.
That means sufficient weight and of health too.
For instance, they need to have built up sufficient reserves of body fat.
Otherwise, they can die of starvation and dehydration.
Then the conditions need to be optimal too. In the right container, at the right temperature, and placed in the right spot.
So, whether or not you decide to hibernate a Hermann tortoise is something that needs to be well researched and seriously considered.
Speaking to a vet is generally a good idea at various stages throughout the year to plan. Tortoises prepare for hibernation, and you would need to do the same.
How Do I Know When My Hermann Tortoise Is Ready To Hibernate?
A Hermann Tortoise that is of sufficient weight (with adequate body fat reserves) and is showing no ill signs of health during the late summer should be showing signs that they are capable and able to hibernate.
As hibernation must be carefully planned, managed, and coordinated, an owner will need to make a decision months before the process is to begin.
Besides, hibernation can be very dangerous for a tortoise not equipped for it.
Thus, it is essential that a month or so before you get a vet to examine your tortoise, they’ll be able to confirm whether or not you should proceed with hibernation.
If they pass the test, you can proceed. Otherwise, you mustn’t let them hibernate.
What Does Hibernation Involve?
Assuming your Hermann tortoise is sufficiently healthy, and you were to hibernate them, this is what the general process would look like:
To hibernate a Hermann during the winter, you will need to transition their care in early autumn.
Depending on your location and climate, you may even need to bring them inside during this time to extend their summer.
Remember, Hermann Tortoises are from the Mediterranean, where summers are typically longer, and the climate is warmer for later during the year.
So, you may need to bring them inside and provide them with an appropriate heat lamp to keep them warm as the days and nights turn colder.
You would also need to keep them active, and feeding – any signs of slow down may even mean they have not sufficient reserves to survive hibernation.
In late-autumn, hibernation should begin.
You would need to slowly reduce the temperature of your tortoise’s enclosure and the amount you feed them to.
They should be showing signs of less activity and feeding.
After 2-3 weeks of reduced food intake, you should cease all food altogether.
Tortoises need an empty stomach during hibernation. Otherwise, it will rot and will cause disease.
This ‘starvation period,’ as it is known, allows them to properly digest and empty their stomach. Although, water should still be given and accessible at all times.
Should last between 10-12 weeks, from late fall (autumn) to the beginning of spring.
There are several different methods of hibernation, although the most common appears to be the ‘Box method.’
Regardless of the method used, it’s important that the temperature stays within the 38° Fahrenheit (3° celsius) or 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius) range.
Any higher can cause a tortoise to wake up, any lower and a tortoise can freeze to death.
Some owners will hibernate their tortoise in a fridge, whereas others may do so in a protected outbuilding or another environment that can be temperature controlled.
Tortoises need access to sufficient ventilation and insulation if they are stored in a box. It is advised that this box is then placed into another. This way, if your tortoise wakes early, they will still be kept within a box.
Before hibernation, a tortoise should be weighed.
Consider that they will lose around 1% body weight for each month of hibernation; they use their body fat to keep them alive.
It is essential to routinely check your tortoise to ensure they are in good health during this time.
Once 10-12 weeks is up, your tortoise should be ready to arise.
Like going into hibernation, coming out should be done slowly – warming the temperature gradually.
They’ll need food, but particularly water, at hand right away.
Hermann Tortoises do hibernate as a species.
In the wild, it is common for them to do so – it is a survival mechanism, after all.
In captivity, well, that is a different matter altogether.
Some owners decide to hibernate their Hermanns, whereas others choose not to.
It ultimately comes down to context and preferences.
What is essential, the mind is that your tortoise is sufficiently healthy if you want to induce hibernation.
At the same time, if you decide not to induce hibernation, conditions are optimal for them.
Either way, speaking regularly with a vet and continuing to research this biological process will set you in good stead if you do decide to keep one.
Just don’t confuse this process with sleep!
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.