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Hibernation (reptiles technically brumate) is a torpid period for the Red Ear Slider that occurs during the winter months. It is not necessary to allow captive RES to hibernate and is not recommended. You should never force a slider into hibernation. When your turtles are kept indoors year-round, there is probably nothing to change. If you keep your RES outdoors, you will need to bring them inside if your area experiences cold winters or temperatures.

Allowing your slider(s) to hibernate is dangerous for several reasons.
  • You may lack the experience to adequately do so.
  • You probably do not have an adequate habitat setup for turtle hibernation.
  • Young and unhealthy turtles may be too weak.
  • Your turtle is unprepared for it.
  • Your geographical location may be unsuitable.
RES that do hibernate do so in the thick leafy and muddy bottoms of ponds that are several feet deep and have a large surface area. They do not surface for oxygen during this time but are able to absorb oxygen through the membranes of mouths, throats and cloaca. At lower depths, water should not be able to freeze or fluctuate as the cold temperature causes reduced oxygen and energy use. As a result, well-oxygenated water and depth are necessities. Most artificial and pre-formed ponds do not offer sufficient depth or conditions to achieve proper hibernation. This is another example why minimum water temperatures must be maintained or they can become a hazard. A slider will become less active and may refuse to eat if water temperatures are too cold but not cold enough to hibernate. This is referred to as a “death zone” and read this section for more information. A good water temperature for active RES is 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit or 24-26 degrees Celsius.

RES have been found hibernating in unusual places. For instance, they have been found under hollow logs and stumps. It is not exactly known if they are hibernating or in a semi-torpid state, however they are using more energy and cannot stay in this dormancy for periods as long as normal underwater hibernation. They are also more vulnerable to predators or temperature changes.

Attention The information presented is considered general since we do not recommend natural or artificial (e.g., induced or forced) hibernation. If you do believe you have the proper conditions, please contact a local reptile or herp organization for more information and experiences on captive sliders in your region.

Tortoise Reserve - The Complexities of Turtle Hibernation

Anapsid - Hibernation Guidelines for Turtles and Tortoises

Austins Turtle Page - Hibernation
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.