How Cold is Too Cold For The Desert Tortoise

How Cold is Too Cold For The Desert Tortoise?

If you are lucky to own a desert tortoise, their care will be of the utmost importance to this scarce tortoise species. One of the main things we need to consider when keeping tortoises is the temperature. Know how cold is too cold for desert tortoises is key to keeping them healthy.

Desert tortoises require a temperature of 50°F (10°C), and anything below this will be too cold. The only time the temperature should drop below 50°F (10°C) is when you hibernate your desert tortoise. During hibernation, the temperature will need to be continuously monitored.

Desert tortoises are rare, and caring for them probably is critical, so exploring their habitat can give you some information to better care for their needs. Looking at their natural habitat will allow you to replicate this in your situation, enabling you to offer them the best care.

Is It Illegal To Have a Desert Tortoise as a Pet?

The first thing to cover before moving onto the temperature is staying on the right side of the law. The desert tortoise is a threatened species and protected, so under no circumstances can you collect them from the wild. You are legally allowed to keep desert tortoise that was obtained from the wild pre-1990 and their progeny. So, make sure you have purchased your desert tortoise from a reputable supplier.

Where Do Desert Tortoise Originate

I know more information before the temperature, but knowing where the desert tortoise originates can help you offer your tortoise the best care.

The desert tortoise comes from the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern and northwestern Mexico. It spends most of its time in burrows and other forms of shelters to regulate body temperature to keep water loss to a minimum. Becoming most active after seasonal rains and is relatively inactive throughout the year. Some of these areas have harsh weather conditions with freezing temperatures and low food availability, and the desert tortoise handles these conditions.

Yard Dwelling Desert Tortoises

It is best to have a tortoise outside as much as possible; this will allow your tortoise to reach maturity. This will allow the tortoise to behave in its most natural way and take all the sun’s natural UV.

Don’t allow your yard to get below the recommended temperature of 50°F (10°C) before bringing your desert tortoise inside. Act before, as the lower the temperature, the more your internal tortoise system will start to shut until eventually, he will turn to hibernation mode.

Your yard can reach temperatures of 140 °F (60 °C) no problem for a desert tortoise; these temperatures come naturally to them. However, you should have shaded areas or someone your tortoise can burrow to take cover and control their temperature from the heat. It is believed that desert tortoises spend 95% of their lives in burrows.

Desert Tortoises at Night

The night is what catches most tortoise owners out in terms of keeping the temperature in check. Very low temperatures will cause us concern, especially if we are trying to give or tortoise the most natural life.

Desert tortoises are capable of dealing with colder weather as they deal with it in the wild. Anything below 50°F (10°C) and the desert tortoise will start to enter a temporary state of hibernation. They will do the same in the wild perfectly, but you don’t want the temperature to fall too low.

A tortoise’s body shuts down in stages until it reaches full hibernation. At some point, their immune system will slowly shut down throughout the process. Naturally, getting to this will only happen once in the wild. However, if you allow the temperature to keep dropping to a stage where your tortoise immune system falls, this is how many tortoises become ill.

The desert tortoise is hardy, and as long as you live in an area where the overnight temperature doesn’t regularly drop below 50°F (10°C), they should be fine.

Allowing them to follow their natural process and hibernate is sufficient for an adult desert tortoise in your yard. You will need to make sure the temperature never reached below freezing as this could become damaging to them or leading to death.

If your winter doesn’t stay within 36-50 °F (2-10 °C), it is recommended that you overwinter your tortoise inside or in a stable environment. Also, if you have a tortoise that isn’t in the best of health, you shouldn’t hibernate them.

Best Living Conditions for Desert Tortoises

Offering any tortoise the best living conditions should be the aim of any tortoise owner. The best way to provide your tortoise this is by trying to replicate their natural habitat conditions.

There is not much we can do about the weather where we live we need to offer this with lighting. However, we can offer them the most natural way of living by providing their homes how they would be in the deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern and northwestern Mexico.

Desert tortoise prefers a sandy substance for their homes that maintain water try avoiding any human-made or straw. What this allows them is to escape the heat of the sun and burrow into the sandy dirt.

You possibly don’t live in an area that matched the weather condition of their natural habitat. However, it is best practice to offer them the most natural environment, and the desert tortoise loves to burrow more than most other tortoise species.


We found out more than the ideal temperature for a desert tortoise. We know now that we have to be careful that we are staying on the right side of the law by keeping this threatened species.

Keeping a desert tortoise in your yard is fine if you can offer temperatures that don’t fall below 50°F (10°C). Heat is not much of a problem as their natural habitat can reach temperature into the range of 140 °F (60 °C). With that said, you will need to provide them with areas that allow them to follow their instinct of burrowing to shade from the heat.

Your winters need to stay within a 36-50 °F (2-10 °C) range for them to be successful in hibernating outside in your yard. Anything out of this range, and you should be overwintering your tortoise.

Before taking on a desert tortoise as a pet, you need to understand that 95% of their time is spent in burrows in the wild. So they are not the most active tortoise, so it should be a real consideration if they are the Best Tortoise Breeds before giving them a home.