Dear Members and Friends: Our Winter meeting will be held on Saturday, January 20th at Round Table Pizza on Florin Road next to Bel Air from 2 until 5pm. We will have the sale table there and raffle off some better quality items with the tortoise stepping stone being the top prize. We'll be discussing the upcoming year's events and where to have them!! We may have sunk our own ship at the last 'meeting' at Belle Cooledge. The reason I did not get a confirmation of the meeting date was because I was supposed to go in to be told we cannot have any animals in the room. Of course we already knew this. And when we went to the library for the Fall meeting, for some reason, the two librarians came into the meeting room and asked me if there were any turtles in the room and I answered, “No, of course not”. When they turned to leave, they saw a plastic shoe box on the table next to the door containing a tortoise someone had brought for me to do a pre-hibernation checkup on........they didn't say anything and walked out and I turned to those few people attending and said, “Well, that's the last time we'll ever see the inside of this room”.........and we decided to skip the meeting and went to Round Table instead and had a very fun evening there.

I believe the Sacramento libraries have stopped the 'Read To A Dog' program because they do not want any animals in the meeting rooms. It's a shame they would take such an important program away from the children who benefitted greatly from it. I'm totally disgusted with this library anyway and the way we have been treated. So, at the pizza parlor meeting, let's talk about where to have future meetings. I really liked the Robbie Waters library a lot better. It was certainly a lot more friendly!! However, the same 'rule' applies there. No afternoon meetings on Saturdays are allowed.

Regarding our TURTLERAMA, it was a huge success as always, however, as the day went on, the heat went up and by the time it was over, the temperature had risen to 106 degrees which was higher than last year's 104!! So, who out there can predict the weather for 2018? I'd like to thank the following people for their participation on that hot hot Saturday: (Let me know if I left anyone out!) Chris and Ernestine – they did the animal paw casting again, thanks so much! And they watched over the children in the Kid's Korner........Terri, KC, Melissa, Tracy and Steve (who lugged Big Ben the Sulcata AND his corral to the show to show how huge these tortoises grow) Susan (showed small Sulcatas), Chuck brought his assortment of water turtles, albino's as well; Craig brought her walking sticks, etc. Corrine, Linda, Sally, Michael, and Robin brought his Greek babies. Terri Sheffield also had her redfoot on display. Thank you ALL so MUCH for participating. Hoping for a cooler day next time!


It was not a good year for the residents of The Bunker. No matter how hard we try, no matter what actions we take against predators, no matter how much sleep we lose, there's no way to win against these nighttime raccoons; rats and possums; who sometimes find their snacks in our yards. Why do we even have these turtles in our yards in the first place? Are they better off in the wild? Probably yes, but their 'wild' is becoming less and less and we become the caretakers either by accident or on purpose. My entire neighborhood is now overrun with huge rats. People are doing what they can to eradicate the problem in good and not so good ways. The Rat Zapper certainly works but catching ONE each night won't help with the growing population of these little scavengers. Craig Gifford installed motion sensor spotlights in my yard aimed at the back fence which is supposed to scare them away. I hope it works because I am out of ideas. So far so good. I can SEE the varmits as the lights flip on....

On the bright side, all of the box turtles and tortoises are ok. The rats and raccoons only seem interested in the sliders for some reason. Maybe because they are so easy to bite? They cannot hide inside of their shells......We did have 3 baby Greeks hatch but the Hermanni's continue to chase one another without doing anything else. The Bunker Residents and myself and Kevin the Kitty wish you all a VERY Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year..... See you on Jan 20, 2018. Watch for some of your pets emerging from hibernation around Valentine's Day......

by Andy Highfield

There's no such thing as a universally ideal pen – each species will have different requirements, some prefer the bright outdoors, others prefer the shade of the rain forest floor, some species like to climb, others like to burrow. There are, however, a few general guidelines we can offer which you can then adapt as necessary. We have kept hundreds of tortoises, of many different species, and in some cases, we have learned what works and what does not work the hard way! Here are some of the 'golden rules' we've picked up over the years.

If a tortoise can see through it, he will try to pass through it. So, ensure that all perimeters are impossible to see through.

Square corners just invite attempts to 'chimney up' them and escape. It's better to have continuous fencing. A gently curved or rounded 'corner' is much less likely to serve as an escape route. (a triangle piece of wood fitted over each corner works well too) Fences should be of adequate height and depth. Ideally, 1.5 to 2 times as high as the tortoise is long. Many species are adept at burrowing and scraping too, so it helps if all fences are dug at a reasonable depth. NEVER rely on temporary pens!!! These almost always lead to successful escapes! Tortoises are highly resourceful and determined creatures. If there's a way, they will find it.

Beware of toxic substances used as wood preservatives. Use safe alternatives and allow materials to 'weather' before use.

Use an appropriate substrate for the species to be housed. Desert species will require a sandy, very well-drained substrate, while many tropical species prefer moist leaf-litter, moss and crushed orchid bark. Provide all egg-laying females with suitable raised nesting sites.

Try to make all pens interesting and attractive. The old-style wooden pen on a grass lawn is NOT the way to go. Contoured outlines, with plenty of internal space, alternative access to basking spots and shade retreats and a variety of places to climb are all prerequisites of good pen design.

Create an 'island' of interesting vegetation in the middle. This will distract attention from the perimeters and will lessen the frequency of escape attempts.

If at all possible, provide slopes in all pens. These greatly facilitate basking, nesting and are much closer to the typical natural habitat of many species.

Pens for juveniles MUST be predator proof. Rats and other predatory mammals can and WILL attack small tortoises – usually with fatal results. Secure tops with wire mesh and ensure that perimeters are free of rodent or other burrows and check regularly.

Provide juvenile pens with low growing vegetation. This provides 'leg holds' in case the tortoises fall on their backs and helps them to right themselves.

Check all pens regularly in hot weather. A tortoise can quickly overheat if he gets on his back and is unable to turn itself back over.

Install a 'mini-greenhouse' basking area in outdoor pens for use in dull weather. These will provide protection from cold winds and will greatly assist in thermoregulation.

Ensure that all pens are free of toxic plants and encourage edible plants. All pens need to be of adequate size, generally, the larger the better. WE recommend allowing at least 10 sq. meters per average sized tortoise inhabitant.

With good design and careful construction, pens can provide an interesting, biologically suitable environment for many species. There is no need for pens to be either insecure, inadequate or boring! A really good pen will provide everything your tortoise needs throughout the summer months, and will prove an attractive addition to any garden.
(Voice of the Turtle October 2001)