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SHL Update and photo

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Posted by: Bluemax1969 at Thu Apr 17 19:58:31 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by Bluemax1969 ]  

Our herd of hernandesi is growing. Not in numbers (not declining in numbers, either) but in weight. The following are my winter notes.

If you think you’re going to get the winter off while your Hls hibernate, well……you’d just be thinkin’ that!

Beginning in October, I started reducing cage temps and daylight time until I reached ambient. Ambient in San Diego isn’t good enough. I previously stated that I thought hernandesi would do well outdoors full time in San Diego but I must now qualify that statement by adding, only if you live in a part of San Diego County above 4,000 ft. elevation where it actually gets cold!

Temperature is everything when it comes to hibernation.

Although some of our SHLs started preparing for winter by digging dens, it wasn’t until overnight temps dropped into the 40s and daytime temps stayed below 50 degrees that they actually stayed down. I had a difficult time keeping the cage temps below 50 degrees, resorting to adding blocks of ice to regulate temps. I became the thermostat, changing ice as required. I guarantee that by this time next year I will have installed some sort of thermo-electric device to maintain winter temps at 40 degrees. I believe 40 degrees will be perfect for a successful SHL hibernation.

By mid November, all of the females and the tiniest male, Jon, had gone down. It took another average 5-degree drop in temps before the two full sized males did so but even then, they did not bury themselves. Even though they had been in separate cages and had not seen each other for over a month, both 18-month-old Kermit and 6-month-old Cookie Monster spent winter above ground cozied up to the containers of ice. I put a 3” x 3” blanket over them so they wouldn’t get freezer burn.

I found that I had to cover their cages to prevent any light from attracting them. Light equals heat to a HL and any amount was enough to interrupt their sleep.

I checked on them periodically, removing their cover rock or blanket. I did not wake them but inspected them and put them back. They move around quite a bit during their sleep, mostly just turning in circles making a nice roomy crater.

Sometime during the fall, a colony of approx. 300 Honey Pot ants took up residence in the largest tank. In one corner where the substrate is 6” deep, the ants had tunneled down to the bottom and then laterally about 18” with several side tunnels and dens. I had to maintain this colony through the winter. Each day I would observe half-a-dozen of them drinking from the water rock or eating from a banana peel. They proved to be a valuable resource when the HLs woke. I fed them and watered them because I didn’t want them dead in the tank. I don’t let insects decay in the tanks.

I worked in construction for 25 years and at one time was qualified as a supervisor for work in confined spaces. The tanks we keep our HLs in meet the definition of a confined space. I have a 6” variable speed fan that I turn on every other day or so to keep the air in the tanks fresh.

At the end of February, we took a weekend trip knowing that the tank temps would rise and just as suspected, the HLs started to wake up. By Mar 1st, they were all awake after nearly four months for some. This proved to be too long for our tiniest HL, Jon. It took some great advice from Fireside3 and our Vet and a solid month of TLC from me and my wife to bring him around. Jon just cracked 3 grams.

Mating season lasted for most of March. We tried our best to keep the males separated but there were times when we had to put them in the same enclosure. I did catch Cookie Monster and Janice behind the pine needles, mating, but only once. I think.

All eight of our SHLs have now passed their Vet exam and are looking forward to showing off at their second reptile show in June.



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