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Understanding Your Three-Toad Turtle’s Bromation Process

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Bromation pertains to the process when the body’s metabolism of reptiles slows down and uses little energy. They stay awake, but they are extremely sluggish. The cold weather, dry conditions, and lack of food force three-toed turtles to hibernate for 5 months every year. Bromation doesn’t occur without dangers, and many pet and wild turtles die because of this. 

Why Do Three-Toad Turtles Bromate?

Many reptiles hibernate to prepare for the mating season as the cooling period promotes sperm production and ovulation. Reptiles are cold-blooded, so they find it hard to digest food at cold temperatures. Before bromation, they don’t eat anything, and their digestive tract empties. Thanks to the cool temperature, they spend a small amount of energy when they are not eating anything.

Box turtles living in outdoor enclosures will start to have reduced appetite around October. Turtles that are kept indoors may not eat anything as they react to slight changes in their surroundings and try to bromate. You should never allow them to become inactive at room temperature.

Provide them with full-spectrum lighting for 14 hours a day. The humidity level in the indoor enclosure should remain high as well. The nighttime temperature should be kept above 75ﹾF. These changes imitate the temperature during summer and are usually enough to keep indoor turtles active during winter.

In other words, some precautions should be taken , safely bromate three-toed turtles. They can bromate in a customized refrigerator, in the ground, or in a box filled with damp sphagnum moss, provided that the temperature is maintained within the safe range.

If you’re going to use an artificial hibernaculum, you have to make sure that it can maintain a humidity level of 75% to 80% and a temperature range between 40 ﹾF and 48 ﹾF. If you’re bromating turtles housed indoors or in a warm climate region, you should consider using a refrigerator.

How to Prepare Three-Toed Box Turtles for Bromation

Three-Toed Box Turtles: Care and Behaviour

Video Credits: Brook Horse: The Natural Environment

· Health

Bromation can cause more harm than good if it’s not done properly. It is important to prepare your pet for this process. Since their immune system is not working effectively when bromating, you should never allow ill or weak turtles to bromate. Any illness or infection could be fatal to them.

Your pet should get a physical examination at least eight weeks before hibernation. The vet should look for any signs of illness like oral lesions, shell rot or wounds, ocular discharge or lesions, dehydration, low body weight, open-mouthed breathing, nasal discharge, and difficulty breathing. A fecal exam must be conducted as well to check for parasites.

The vet will ask questions like what and how much your pet has been eating and any history of illness or stress. By keeping an accurate record of the weight and feeding habits of your turtle throughout the year, you can give plenty of information to the vet.

If the vet finds that the turtle lost a lot of weight since spring, is underweight, has refused to eat anything, or is suffering from a disease, you should not allow your pet to bromate. Feed your pet until it gains enough weight and treats its illness. Once it is deemed healthy, it can enter a short period of bromation under austere monitoring.

Weigh your pet before and every 2 to 3 weeks during bromation. Get their weight in grams and write it down on a chart together with the date that you’ve taken their weight. You should buy a precise digital scale to make things easier for you. This is particularly important if the turtle weighs less than 6 pounds.

· Diet and Hydration

You should give your pet plenty of vegetables that are packed with Vitamin A, such as winter squashes, pumpkin, and carrots before he enters the bromation period. This is because Vitamin A can become quickly depleted during bromation.

Dark green leafy veggies like mustard, kale, broccoli, and collard are good sources of Vitamin A. Dandelions are also rich in this vitamin. Other excellent sources include baby mice, fish, and yellow or orange vegetables and fruits like cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes and peaches. Give them more foods that are rich in fiber when the end of summer is near. Feed them high-fiber weeds, alfalfa, grasses and timothy hay.

Liquid supplements that are rich in Vitamin A can be added to their water. You can also put cod liver oil to their food. Do this once a week for a whole month before they stop eating. Just don’t use too many Vitamin A supplements as it will cause hypervitaminosis A. This condition can cause liver disease as well as skin peeling and redness.

Turtles should be soaked in water for 20 to 30 minutes every 48 hours before bromation to keep them hydrated. Place them in a shallow container that is filled with 3/4″ of lukewarm water. Aside from keeping them hydrated, soaking them will also promote emptying of the digestive system as well as defecation.

Stop giving them food about 10 to 14 days before the bromation period. Their digestive system should be empty when they enter this period because any undigested food in their intestines can cause serious illness. You should still give them water during this period.

How to Prepare the Bromation Site

· Pit-type Hibernaculum

You need to build a pit-type hibernaculum inside the turtle’s pen if you want to bromate them outdoors. The hibernaculum should be over the water table and not flood when it rains. Loosen up at least a 3 ft sq x 2 to 3 ft deep area in early fall or late summer. How deep the pit should depend on your region’s freeze depth.

Get rid of the dirt and throw in peat moss, grass clippings, and composted leaves. Add an adequate amount of straw, grass clippings, and mulched leaves to create mulch. Just make sure that the turtles have entered the ditch before doing so. Create a larger pit if you are bromating several turtles or you can just dig another pit. You can also build an overhanging shelter with cement blocks or bricks and plywood boards if your place gets a large amount of rainfall.

· Fridge Bromation

If you keep three-toed turtles indoors and you want them to stay active throughout the winter season, you just need to maintain summer-like conditions inside their enclosure. In case you want to bromate turtles that come from warm climate regions or turtles that are raised indoors, you can use a customized dorm refrigerator to let them enter a short bromation period.

Make sure that the dorm refrigerator is designed for turtle bromation only because the high temperature won’t be suitable for storing food items in there. Simply adjust the refrigerator’s thermostat to maintain a 40ﹾ to 48 ﹾtemperature range. A digital thermometer can help you monitor the temperature accurately.

Put the turtles in separate medium-size plastic containers. Fill only half part of the containers with damp sphagnum moss and make a dozen tiny holes on the sides and top of the containers to maintain proper ventilation. Open the fridge door for a couple of minutes 2 or 3 times daily to let fresh air in.

You should remove the turtles from the fridge every 3 to 4 weeks and let them warm to room temperatures. Soak them in lukewarm water for 15 minutes to half an hour. Make sure that the moss is still damp. Put the turtles back in the containers and resume bromation. You can bromate them through this method for 8 weeks. Fridge bromation shouldn’t exceed 3 months.

· Above Ground Bromation

It is also important to protect the turtles from predators such as raccoons and rats. It’s best to house the turtles indoors throughout the winter season if your place is frequently invaded by such predators. You can use an artificial hibernaculum if the outdoor pen is not fit for bromation, or you are worried about predation.

The turtles can be placed in individual plastic boxes after they’ve been soaked every day for several weeks and have stopped eating. Fill only half of the plastic boxes with moist moss. Don’t forget to drill a dozen tiny holes into the sides and top of the boxes. Put the plastic boxes in an insulated bromation box and store it in a crawl space, cold closet, outbuilding or garage to maintain a 40ﹾ to 48 ﹾtemperature range. If the place is too cold or too warm, you should find another location for the bromation box. Whichever method you choose, make sure to prepare the bromation box, bromation pit, or refrigerator early. Three-toed turtles that are bromated outdoors start to wake up when daylight temperatures reach 60ﹾ and daytime lengthens. Expect them to bask in the sun to increase their body temperatures. Give them fresh water when you see that they’re moving about. Refrain from feeding them until they’ve warmed enough for digestion. This can take 2 to 3 weeks. You can give them food items that are usually found during spring, such as fresh berries, mushrooms and greens.  

Turtlekeepers’ Bible: Tips and Guide