Brumation

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Katrina
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Brumation

Postby Katrina » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:06 pm

Brumation is a term used to describe how reptiles survive colder weather and winter. It is similar to hibernation in mammals.

As the temperatures cool over winter, Blue Tongue Skinks will basically find a nice place to hide and wait out winter. They may come out and bask on warm days, but they spend most of the time hiding. This can happen in captivity as well, even if you don't lower their temperatures on purpose. They are in tune with the weather and seasons and may begin to brumate as winter comes even if you leave the lights and temperatures exactly the same.

Brumation differs a bit with the different species of Blue Tongue Skinks - the Indonesian subspecies are more equatorial and instead of winter / summer experience wet and dry seasons. They may not brumate over winter whereas Northerns, for example, will generally start to brumate without any changes from the owner. If you are not planning on breeding it is fine to wait and see what your Blue Tongue Skink chooses to do as winter is approaching. If they do not brumate it is fine to keep feeding them and leave the lights on like usual. If they begin to brumate then you will not convince them otherwise, so it is best just to allow them to brumate.

Any Blue Tongue Skink can safely brumate as long as they are healthy and in good condition - even very young ones. Just make sure you don't feed for at least a week before you lower their temperatures so they can digest any food in their stomachs. Always have water available throughout brumation, even if you have not seen them in days. Do not brumate BTS with any kind of health problem.

Brumation generally lasts anywhere from 4 - 12 weeks and as spring comes they will start to wake up. There are many different ways to brumate, but it involves lowering the temperatures and shortening the photoperiod. You can cool them down and not offer heat, or cool them but still have a basking spot available for several hours a day if they choose to use it - either is fine. I always make sure that they have a thick layer of substrate and good hides so that they can feel very secure. For Northerns, Easterns and Irian Jayas temperatures between 55 and 65 F are fine (13 - 18 C). For Meraukes, Kei Islands, Indonesian and Tanimbars I wouldn't go any lower than 65 F (try for 65 - low 70s F, 18 - 23 C) - remember, often these BTS will not brumate but rather just slow down and eat a bit less over winter, so a formal brumation is often not necessary. To brumate, cool them down and then just leave them be for the period of brumation, checking on them every few days. Monitor their condition and weight - if their weight drops more than 5-10% of their original weight or you have any concerns about their health, warm them back up. If temperatures are too warm then their metabolism will remain too high and they will use up fat reserves, so try to lower their temperatures to the suggested ranges. As spring approaches you can increase the photo period and bring the temperatures back up. For North Americans, brumation generally begins November - December. Even though they don't eat for several months, if they temperatures are low enough (within suggested ranges above) they generally lose almost no weight.

Again - if you don't plan on breeding, then just watch for signs that your bluey is slowing down or refusing food. If not, then keep offering food and don't worry about brumation. It is normal for the appetite to decrease in the winter months even if they aren't brumating.

If you are interested in brumating so that you can breed Blue Tongue Skinks it would be best to speak to someone who has bred the species you hope to breed and to learn from them. This is intended just as a basic guide for the pet owner who is not looking to breed.

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