Where Do Turtles Go in the Winter? And 4 Other Facts on Turtle Hibernation

Turtle Hibernation

Turtles are cold-blooded like most reptiles. This means winters can get a little too cold, and it might make it difficult for them to survive.

Where do turtles go in the winter? It depends on the turtle. There are several different types of turtles, and they have different ways of surviving during the winter months. 

With so many different kinds of turtles using different methods to survive through winter, we thought it might be interesting to look at the ways turtles handle the colder months of the year.

What do turtles do in winter?

For most turtles, winter is not an issue. Since most turtles live in warmer climates, the temperature does not get low enough to cause a problem. For other turtles, there are various strategies they can deploy to survive winter. For sea turtles, the answer to winter is to simply migrate to a warmer part of the world. 

While migration might work for sea turtles, it isn’t an option for many other species that may encounter cold temperatures during winter. In this case, different turtle adaptations might come into play. This is where a hibernation-like state can help turtles to survive through the colder months.

Do turtles hibernate?

Turtles don’t actually hibernate. You might hear people use the term when talking about turtles, but it is incorrect. So what do turtles do in the winter? Some go into a state of brumation during winter. Both brumation and hibernation are forms of deep sleep, but they are different in some ways. Most notably, brumation only occurs in cold-blooded animals. 

How do brumation and hibernation differ?

Many people will refer to brumation as hibernation. They are very similar and the most notable difference is the types of animals that hibernate or brumate. Both are considered a type of sleep that the animals use to survive winter. In both cases, the heart rate, metabolism, blood pressure and respiration decrease.

Another difference between these two states is that hibernating animals sleep through the entire cold season. When reptiles brumate, they might wake up occasionally to eat or drink water. If the temperature warms enough, they might even wake up to find a new place to brumate. How do turtles breathe underwater during such long stretches of time? Keep reading—the answer won’t disappoint.

Where do turtles brumate?

Different turtles have different brumation strategies. As an example, gopher turtles dig burrows in the ground for brumation. Some types of turtles might bury themselves in mud on the bank of a pond or lake. You will even find some that submerge in water during brumation. Amazingly, they can stay underwater for days or weeks when brumating, thanks to different turtle adaptations. 

How do turtles breathe underwater?

As reptiles, turtles need to breathe air. So how do they breathe when they are underwater for days or weeks of brumation? The first thing you need to understand is that they do not need as much oxygen when they brumate. With the systems of the body slowing, they can survive for much longer on a low supply of oxygen.

Furthermore, some turtles can use cloacal respiration to obtain oxygen when they are submerged in water. This process involves moving water across areas of the body that have a lot of blood vessels near the surface. By doing this, they can move carbon dioxide out of the blood and oxygen into the blood. During this process, their main source of oxygen is through their butt. It isn’t as efficient as breathing, but it is enough when their bodies are in the resting state of brumation.

So, where do turtles go during the winter? As you can see, different turtles do different things to get by during winter. Some never have to deal with it, others might migrate to a different part of the world, and some survive through brumation. 

If you’re interested in seeing first-hand where turtles go during the winter, remember that each Fahlo bracelet tracks an animal –and you help us save wildlife with your purchase! Track your own sea turtle with each bracelet on your phone or tablet! Made in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

At Fahlo we donate 10% of net profits from every turtle bracelet sold to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Thanks to our partnership, Fahlo has donated almost $300,000 towards our sea turtle conservation programs to help raise awareness and provide protection for sea turtles around the globe!

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