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Water Turtle Hibernation

Hibernation allows animals to avoid adverse climatic conditions. Unlike regular sleep, hibernation involves a more prolonged period of inactivity accompanied by a substantial decrease in metabolic activity. These changes enable the animal to survive periods during which environmental conditions are harsh and unfavorable. In the wild, water turtles bury themselves in the muddy bottoms of lakes and ponds to hibernate during the winter months.

Hibernation is not necessary for the health and well-being of captive water turtles. In fact, captive water turtles should not be allowed to hibernate. In regions with freezing temperatures, water turtles inhabiting outdoor ponds should be moved indoors before the first freeze. This prevents hibernation, especially if they are encouraged to feed regularly throughout the winter months. In warmer regions of the country where freezing temperatures are rare, captive water turtles should be kept relatively warm and encouraged to feed regularly. The water of outdoor ponds could be heated or, preferably, the turtles could be brought indoors for the winter months. "Partial hibernation" may result if warm temperatures are not provided in the winter months. This is undesirable because it tends to promote a state of lowered resistance and disease.