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      The Nature Report: Tortoise Awakening

      This Texas tortoise has been sleeping since late November, and now with the spring sun warming the earth, the venerable tortoise slowly awakens for a look at the world.

      The only place in the United States where you can find wild Texas tortoises is in the arid brush country of South Texas. Finally, after more than an hour, the tortoise takes its first step of the year and slowly climbs up out of the shallow depression where it has been resting in a state of brumation for some three months.

      It is not really a true hibernation, but similar in that tortoises slow their metabolism down and take up residence in shallow burrows to wait out the brief South Texas winter. Tortoises are well adapted to the dry brush country, and they can go very long periods of time without drinking, as they get the majority of moisture they require from munching on cactus and other native plants. Tortoises breed once a year, and the female lays one to seven eggs.

      Since, they normally have a territory of only some two acres, the chances are that this spring encounter with a young hatchling is hers.

      But only a cursory sniffing occurs, and the female moves off with no regard for junior. It TMs a good thing he has a hard shell. No one knows for sure how long Texas tortoises can live, but one ongoing study in captivity reveals the protected tortoises can attain an age of eighty or more.