Where do turtles go in the winter?

Turtles are pretty fascinating creatures. They belong to a group called amphibians, which means they can live both on land and in water. I often get a lot of questions about turtles and their unique abilities. People often wonder how turtles swim or how they manage to breathe underwater. But one question that comes up quite often is what turtles do during the winter. Do they hibernate? Do they prefer to stay in the water or on land? And how do they manage to survive in the cold temperatures? In this article, I’ll do my best to answer all of these interesting questions.


What happens to turtles in the winter

You know, during the winter, most turtles have this incredible ability to go underwater. It’s pretty fascinating! They can actually stay submerged for more than 100 days. Can you believe that? They usually swim down to the bottom of ponds or rivers, even under the frozen surface. It’s like they have their own little underwater hideout.


Turtle in tank, what do turtles do in the winter


Turtles have a pretty cool winter strategy. They actually choose to spend their winter in the water because it’s like their cozy haven. You see, the water has a more stable and warmer temperature compared to the chilly air outside. Even though turtles are cold-blooded and can’t handle extended freezing temperatures, the water provides a safe and snug place for them.¬†


                                                         How do turtles hibernate 

Technically speaking, turtles don’t actually hibernate like some other animals do. Instead, most turtles go through a process known as brumation. Brumation is a winter period of low activity for turtles underwater. Similar to hibernation for warm blooded animals. Turtles brumate which allows them to enter this slow, sluggish state with limited movement, almost like hitting the snooze button on their activity levels. But turtles may still move a little. Cold-blooded animals, like turtles brumate as a way to conserve energy during the colder months. Snakes and lizards also go through brumation.


                                                  Do turtles breathe underwater?

Well, typically, turtles can’t breathe underwater, so they have to come up to the surface to get some air. But here’s where it gets really interesting! When turtles spend their winter underwater, they go through brumation. During this period, they have a unique trick up their shells.

Turtles can actually extract oxygen from the water through their blood vessels. And you know what’s even more surprising? The biggest concentration of blood vessels on a turtle’s body is in their butt! Yep, you heard that right. It’s called cloacal respiration, which is the fancy term for this oxygen-collecting process.

Turtle in a pond, where do turtles go in the winter,

Now, I should mention that the amount of oxygen turtles get from their blood vessels is less compared to what they can get from their lungs.


So, when a turtle is underwater in brumation, something interesting happens. Their metabolism slows down quite a bit. It’s like they go into a low-power mode. Even their heart rate decreases significantly. This happens because of the cold water temperature and the fact that they don’t move around much during this time. Due to the fact their heart rate decreases and metabolism slows down, turtles require way less energy and oxygen.


How to know when to wake your turtle up

During the winter months, while turtles are in a sleep-like state, their bodies remain sensitive to changes in the environment. Interestingly, one of their main senses that signals the arrival of spring is through their eyes. Even with their eyes closed, turtles can still sense a change in light. When the ice starts melting, the bottom of the pond or river becomes brighter, and this signals the turtle to come out of brumation. It’s like they have a natural alarm clock that wakes them up when it’s time to embrace the new season!


Turtle on a rock, turtle brumation,

Towards the end of winter, as nature awakens, the water becomes lively with increased movement. Turtles, with their incredible sense of perception through their nervous system, catch onto this change and receive the signal to wake up. It’s like they have their own built-in sensors for underwater excitement! As the water dances with renewed energy, the turtles sense the vibrant rhythm, and with a burst of anticipation, they emerge from their slumber, ready to embrace the awakening world.¬†


What do turtles do when they reach the surface

Once turtles resurface after their winter journey, they take a deep breath, filling their lungs with fresh air, as their bodies recover from the low oxygen levels. During hibernation, they accumulate lactic acid, much like humans experiencing muscle cramps, but here’s the amazing part: turtles have the extraordinary ability to neutralize the lactic acid using the calcium and carbonates from their shells. As they greet the world again, one of the first things they do is bask in the sun’s warm embrace. Basking not only boosts their body temperature, but also exposes their shell to UV rays, like a natural spa treatment, replenishing their shells and keeping them strong. It’s a rejuvenating ritual that signifies their return and sets the stage for joyous adventures ahead.



Turtle in a pond, body heat,


                                            Do all turtles brumation underwater?

Not all turtles spend winter underwater. It depends on where they live. Cold-environment turtles take the plunge into underwater living during winter, while other species have their own unique winter strategies. Take the box turtle, for instance. When winter arrives, these smart little fellows know exactly what to do. They dig themselves a cozy hole in the ground, creating their very own snug retreat. It’s like their own personal winter getaway, helping them stay warm and comfy throughout the chilly season.


                                                     Do turtles in tanks brumate

When it comes to pet turtles and tortoises in tanks, their behavior can vary in response to seasonal changes. In October, regardless of their environment, many of these reptiles tend to eat less and may even attempt to enter a state of brumation. However, it’s worth noting that some pet turtles may not experience brumation at all, especially those living in artificial environments where seasonal cues may be absent.




¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†What’s the coldest a turtle can survive

In theory, turtles can survive as long as the temperature stays above freezing. However, when the temperature drops significantly, turtles face some challenges. Their mobility decreases, making it difficult for them to find food and carry out essential tasks. So, while turtles are resilient, they can’t endure prolonged exposure to low temperatures. It’s important for them to seek warmth and suitable conditions to thrive.




Summary of where do turtles go in the winter

Turtles are fascinating creatures that exhibit various behaviors during the winter season. Some turtles do spend their winter underwater, going through brumation. Brumation allows the turtle to slow its heart rate and metabolism, this applies mainly to those living in cold environments. They utilize underwater habitats to cope with low temperatures. However, there are other turtle species with different strategies. For instance, the box turtle opts for digging a hole in the ground as its winter refuge. Turtles’ winter behaviors can also differ in captivity, where artificial environments may disrupt natural patterns such as brumation. Furthermore, pet turtles and tortoises may exhibit reduced eating habits in October and may attempt brumation, though this can vary depending on individual factors and environmental conditions. The intricate ways turtles adapt to winter and their unique responses to seasonal changes make them captivating creatures to observe and care for!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *