Monday, July 02, 2018

Meet Gracie the Russian Tortoise

Gracie lives with one of our technicians, Lisa, and her family.  This little tortoise came into Lisa’s family in July of 2002.  RVT Lisa explains, “she was found in my best friend’s backyard.  We scanned her for a microchip (yes, tortoises can have chips) and placed found signs all over the neighborhood.  No one claimed her so we adopted her.”

According to PetMD, “Born at about an inch in length, these tortoises may reach 8-10 inches-long when they are mature, with females being slightly larger than males.
The Russian Tortoise’s carapace (top part of the shell) ranges from a tan to yellow to olive color, with brown to black markings. The plastron (bottom shell) is either solid black or has blotches of brown or black. Their tail tip is hard and bony and longer in males, and their skin is tan to yellow colored. One unique feature that makes Russian Tortoises stand out from other tortoises is the presence of four claws on each foot – hence, their other known name, the “four-toed tortoise.”

We asked Lisa a few questions about Gracie:

Do you have a funny or interesting story about Gracie?

When I first brought her home, I brought her to work to get checked over.  I put her in a bath tub full of water because that’s what I thought you did for turtles.  Well, she’s not a turtle, she’s a tortoise—they can swim and she did but they prefer to live on land.  Needless to say, I should have noticed that she did not have webbed feet—that would have been my clue that she was a land tortoise. At the time, I did not know much about turtles or tortoises. 

What did you learn about Russian Tortoises that you didn’t know before?

Hibernation is an amazing thing!  Every year, it amazes me that Gracie digs herself a hole in her outdoor pen about 1 foot deep, then starts hibernating in November and usually wakes up in February.

Do you have any additional information or stories you’d like to share?

§  In 2018, we have had Gracie for 16 years; their lifespan is 40 years.

§  She is a very easy companion.  She enjoys her head rubbed.  When you do this, she extends out her neck and you can tell she loves it!

§  Turtles and tortoises can transmit salmonella so you need to make sure you wash your hands after handling.

§  We built her a pen in our backyard and that’s where she lives.  Her backyard habitat is a pen made out of chicken wire buried a foot into the ground so that she cannot dig out and we have a cover over it so that she is safe from predators like raccoons.

§  Gracie is a vegetarian.  Her favorite foods are organic mixed greens, green beans, mixed corn/peas/carrots, Fuji apples, and strawberries.  When she eats strawberries, they stain her lips and it looks like she is wearing lipstick J

Thank you Lisa for sharing Gracie's story with us!

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