Is My Turtle Dead or Hibernating? 5 SIGNS!

A hibernating turtle keeps its muscle control while a dead turtle is completely limp. The legs will hang limply and the head will droop if you pick it up.

Like a rag doll, a dead turtle will be limp and unresponsive. A sleeping turtle will be tucked away in its shell, but if prodded, it will move (watch your fingers). The smell, in my experience, is the first thing to catch you off guard. That’s a promising sign.

Most native Australian turtles can only tuck their heads in by bending them sideways, so they can’t really draw themselves into their shell.

As a result, identifying a dead turtle is simple because their head is limp rather than tucked away.

A dead turtle can be identified by its blood, cracked shell, and dismemberment.

I’ve pulled over enough on our roads to save turtles to know that the turtle should be moved off the road in either case.

ALSO SEE: Can Red Eared Slider Turtles eat Strawberries?

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Is a Tortoise Hibernating Or Dead? Here’s How To Figure It Out.

In the wild, many tortoise species must hibernate. They do it all on their own, and most of them are fine when they wake up. What if your pet tortoise decided to hibernate on his own? How can you tell if he’s awake or asleep? How can we be certain they’re safe?

It’s natural to be concerned, but try to remain calm. Here are some methods for determining whether your tortoise is hibernating or dead.

Picking up your tortoise is one way to check on him. He’ll be fine if he keeps his muscle control. That means he’s in control and just snoozing, even if his head and limbs are still tucked inside his shell. However, if the tortoise’s legs and head droop and wobble, it is most likely dead.

After that, gently poke or wiggle his legs. Your tortoise should be fine if they are resisting and moving away from you. She may have died if she doesn’t respond or if you poke her and she feels flaccid and loose.

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Holding a feather to the tortoise’s nose is another way to tell without disturbing it. We don’t want you to play tickle time with her, so don’t do it. Just keep an eye on the feather for any movement. The feather should barely move if the tortoise is breathing. This method works best in a windless environment.

In general, if your tortoise does not appear to be breathing or is droopy, floppy, or unresponsive, he is most likely dead.

Is My Turtle Dead or Hibernating

What Happened to My Tortoise While It Was Hibernating?

Tortoises can die during hibernation, even though they are more common in the wild. It’s a sad situation to be in, but it can occur for a variety of reasons. An undiagnosed illness prior to hibernation could be the culprit.

Perhaps his gut wasn’t completely clean, and the food that remained in his intestines caused him to become ill. He could have been hurt, become too cold, become too warm, and used up all of his stored energy too quickly, or suffocated.

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You can help prevent death and illness during hibernation time if you do your research and make sure your tortoise was prepared for hibernation.

Of course, you should not put your tortoise into hibernation if you are not comfortable doing so. We couldn’t find any conclusive evidence that you need to hibernate your pet tortoise. It has advantages, such as allowing them to live more realistically as if they were in the wild and keeping their bodies on a more natural cycle.

However, if it stresses you out or you’re not sure you’re up to the task of preparation and maintenance, skip it.

Before attempting to hibernate a pet tortoise, consult your exotics veterinarian.


Hibernating a tortoise can result in death or illness if done incorrectly. Most torts emerge from their hibernation refreshed and happy if done correctly. If you’re concerned that your tortoise may have died during hibernation, check for breathing and responsiveness of the tortoise’s limbs on a regular basis.

Good luck, and we wish your tiny tanky friends a very happy hibernation!

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