deep sleep


Tortoise hibernation is a controversial subject and there are lots of differing opinions about the best way to do (or to not) do it – especially with winter temperatures on the rise.  While Rosemary Desert Willow, our tortoise from the local rescue, sleeps in her deep burrow in our back yard, just like she did in the wild, her  babies spent last winter in a huge terrarium that took up most of my desk in the office.  Finally this year I finally decided to take the leap, and after weiging the pros and cons it seemed like  the refrigerator method was the way to go –  If the babies stayed outside all winter in their shallow burrow they could freeze to death.  Same thing goes if I put them in a shipping container (plus there are rats in the containers who seem to find their way into almost everything) and there aren’t really any other out structures that at AZ West that could maintain consistent temps.


After two months at 41-42 degrees Fahrenheit in their refrigerator bedroom the babies were finally ready to wake up.  Ravenous, but in good spirits, they are now back to  living on my desk until it gets warm enough outside to put them back in their outdoor run.


5 Comments On “deep sleep”

  1. Andrea – you are an inspiration to keep working. Surely you have plenty of human resources, but should you ever take new strange help, the will is here.

    your fan,

  2. p.s. I heard a whisper that you were coming to do something with Columbia in NY this summer. I am in this city now and am interested to know if some of your efforts will be located here at any point. Or, as mentioned, if help is needed west.

    • andrea zittel

      I’ll be doing something with Columbia MFA students out at AZ West this summer. Are you ever out on the west coast? We can often use interns/volunteers – especially during our “peak” seasons between April 15th to May 15th and also in October. If you are interested you can email Tatiana at

  3. Agata Fletcher

    Awww, Rob Ray, your comment is so damn cute!! Just like the baby tortoises!…AZ West, a lot of people struggle with hibernation (for their indoor tortoises, I mean.) Did you get your method from the internet? Obviously it worked. Hooray for the 99.9999% other species on the planet. Your work is terrific. I love trailers; not quite ready to purchase one, sadly.
    Catharine in Seattle


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