Can A Sulcata Tortoise Bite You?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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I have met many people who think turtles and tortoises do not bite. Well, you guys are wrong. Turtles do bite, and some species can even snap your fingers off. So, what about tortoises? Do tortoises bite? Can a Sulcata tortoise bite you?

A Sulcata tortoise definitely bites humans, its fellow companions, and sometimes itself. This creature snaps because of stress, self-defense, hunger, bullying, exhibiting social power, etc. A Sulcata might bite you as a sheer mistake, and sometimes it nips its own leg to get relief from skin irritation.

What to do when a Sulcata bites you? Or how can you avoid the sting? Give this article a read to get an insight into the tortoise bites.

Can A Sulcata Tortoise Bite You?

A Sulcata tortoise can bite you or its fellow mates. I know the species seems decent and docile. But under some circumstances, the creature will act violently.

However, you have nothing to worry about. The pet will not sting you unless you give it a reason.

Apparently, a Sulcata tortoise bites the opponent as a part of self-defense. Though the species carry a huge shell on its back, any irregular event can make the pet insecure. As a consequence, the tortoise initiates the attack.

Now, what can upset a Sulcata tortoise? Well, it can be rough touch, your constant cheering, or some stupid experiment you try with the pet.

Similarly, the Sulcata gets vulnerable in front of the predators because of their ferocity. Also, the creature might go hostile to its fellow companion due to bullying, mental stress, or out of mating desire.

However, sometimes tortoises bite each other as a part of their entertainment show. Biting can be accompanied by nibbling or kicking.

Again, has your Sulcata ever bitten you while feeding? If yes, then the chances are the pet has taken your finger as edible food. The tortoise has no intention of hurting you.

The upcoming sections discuss more on why a Sulcata tortoise bites.

Why Do Sulcata Tortoises Bite Humans?

Sulcata tortoises do bite their owners or anyone invading their privacy. But if you dive deep, here are the reasons that make a Sulcata tortoise bite humans,

1. You Are Stressing The Tortoise

If you are an experienced keeper, you already know how tortoises behave to rough touch. If you are not gentle while picking up the tortoise or frequently touching the pet, it will react aggressively.

Sulcata tortoises are not the social type. They prefer to be left alone and have less interaction. When you invade their privacy, the pets feel threatened. Therefore, they bite as a part of their self-defense.

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2. Your Sulcata Tortoise Is Hungry

A hungry Sulcata tortoise will take a bite of anything. At that time, the pet will devour everything you put in front of it. Maybe biting you is its way of indicating its hunger.

Again, when you hand feed your tortoise, the pet might mistake your finger for a worm or other edible item. As a result, the tortoise often tries biting on the flesh.

3. The Pet Is Going Through Changes

It is not that your Sulcata tortoise will always act violently. Generally, the species goes through some behavioral changes during the mating season. It is more true for the male adult Sulcatas.

The adult male tortoises stay excited and pumped up during the season. They behave aggressively to get involved in copulation.

Why Do Sulcata Tortoises Bite Each Other?

Now it is not uncommon for the Sulcata tortoises to bite each other. They get involved in this wild sport for so many reasons. Sometimes, the biting is just a part of their time pass activity. However, nipping or stinging each other can be a sign that your tortoises are fighting.

Take a look at the common reasons why Sulcata tortoises bite each other,

Surely A Fight

You cannot always expect peace when you house multiple tortoises in a single enclosure. In most cases, the tortoises do not get along and finally get involved in a fight. And GOD! Tortoise fights are ugly.

The tortoises bite each other and can make the opponents bleed. They will kick using their legs and leave a mark of their claws on the skin.

But why do tortoises fight? Well, in most cases, the habitat conditions can make the pets stressed and anxious. Say, for example, a congested enclosure, lack of food, no soaking bowl, improper temperature, or filthy pen.

You can reduce the fighting intensity by offering the tortoises proper care. For instance, build the Sulcata tortoises a spacious house. Adult Sulcata tortoises can get up to 32 inches big. So, offering these pets an outside space with enough hiding spots is wiser.

Second, you must provide the tortoises with a water bowl for soaking. Catch a detailed guide on how to soak Sulcata tortoises by clicking here.

Again, you should consider maintaining a warm to the cooler temperature gradient inside the habitat. It will help the creatures move to their comfort zone. Finally, besides maintaining a hygienic enclosure, you need to focus on the food. Offer the Sulcata tortoises a high fiber diet containing weeds, grasses, vegetables, plants, etc.

With all these, your tortoises will be satisfied and have lesser reasons to fight.

Social Dominance

Tortoises are bullies. If you have a healthy adult male Sulcata tortoise, you know I am not lying.

The adult males love to pick on the females and the young tortoises. Even healthy and strong males will bully the weaker ones. This way, the tortoises maintain their social power and dominance.

Biting, nipping, chasing, etc., are all part of bullying. Such behavior can have a negative impact on the victims.

If you notice your Sulcata tortoises bullying each other, take immediate action. You can separate the tortoises and try out different pairings.

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Just Mating

The male Sulcata tortoises tend to bite the females during mating. It is very natural for them.

Generally, the male Sulcatas invite the females to get involved in copulation. They will mount the females from behind and grip them with claws.

The female Sulcata tortoises are larger than the males. Therefore, the male ones sometimes bite their partners so that they do not leave in the middle of mating. Again, the bitings are a sign from the male to the female to keep pace with him.

Usually, these mating bites are not severe. But sometimes, it can make the female tortoises bleed and increase the risk of infections. Thus, it is advised to separate the tortoises if they have aggressive mating behavior.

Do Sulcata Tortoises Bite Themselves?

It might sound weird, but a Sulcata might bite its own legs. There is no intention of hurting but to relieve itself from uneasiness. Generally, you will notice tortoise biting its own skin in two conditions,

1. Shedding:

Like snakes, Sulcata tortoises also shed their skins. But of course, not in whole but in small patches.

The tortoises undergo a bit of uneasiness and itchiness when the patch or flake of skin comes off. However, biting or nipping on the skin offers the reptiles relief.

2. Infection:

Tortoises are vulnerable to bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Those skin diseases come as discomfort to these creatures. However, biting the swelling or inflammation offers them temporary satisfaction.

Does Sulcata Tortoise Bite Hurt?

It goes without saying that the Sulcata tortoise’s bite hurts. But fortunately, the species does not snap at you as fiercely as the snapping turtles. Nevertheless, some claim snapping turtles can bite off your finger.

Though the Sulcata tortoise bites are not that severe, you will get a sting. Also, if the pet gets a tight grip, you will bleed, and the bite will leave a bruise.

But the question is how much these bites hurt.

Well, you can not say for sure. However, the experts suggest that the Sulcata tortoise’s bites are not strong. It is because the species is herbivorous. According to them, the bites of herbivorous tortoises feel like a pinch, leave a mark, and cut through the skin at best.

On the contrary, brace yourself for immense pain if you get bitten by a carnivorous tortoise. Generally, those tortoises are more used to human flesh. Sometimes, the tortoises go for such a powerful bite that they can take off the finger.

However, you have nothing to worry about. Sulcata tortoises are carnivorous and not that of monstrous biters. Therefore, you are safe if you do not provoke the pet to come for you.

Is A Sulcata Tortoise Bite Poisonous?

A Sulcata tortoise bite is anything but not poisonous. But yes, sometimes, the tortoise carries salmonella bacteria which can be transformed to you if the bite penetrates your skin. The bacteria will enter your bloodstream and make you sick.

But do not worry.

Salmonella bacteria do no severe harm to humans. You will feel nauseous and feverish. Some people vomit and go through loose motion after a tortoise bite. With medications, these symptoms will be long gone.

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However, Salmonella bacteria can cause complexities among children and pregnant women. Thus, if any of them get bitten by a tortoise, take immediate action.

What To Do After A Sulcata Tortoise Bite?

As you know, Sulcata tortoises can carry Salmonella bacteria. Hence, washing the injury with lukewarm water first after getting a bite is important.

After cleaning the wound, apply some disinfectant to kill the germs. Finally, put on a bandage, and you are all set.

Call a doctor if you notice the signs of Salmonella, for example, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, etc.

One thing to note here.

Salmonella in tortoises does not transfer to humans via biting. However, you can get bacterial strains when you touch the pet. Therefore, you should wash your hands before and after handling the tortoise.

What Not To Do When A Sulcata Tortoise Bites You?

What would you do when a tortoise bites you? First, you will panic and start hard releasing your hand or finger. Right?

Well, that is where we all go wrong.

Struggling to release your hand and push the tortoise makes the pet stressed and more insecure. As a result, the creature bites you with more pressure.

So, it is not a good idea to hit the tortoise or push it to release the bite.

Instead, take a breath and relax. The tortoise will soon let you go once it feels secure. This way, you can get out of the bite with minimum damage.

How To Avoid Tortoise Bites?

If you do not want to get bitten by a Sulcata tortoise, you have to be careful while handling the creature. Your rough touch can piss off the pet and make it feel insecure. As a result, the tortoise can take you as an opponent and bite you.

So, always be gentle with the tortoise. Grab the pet from behind if you need to pick it up.

Keep your hands far from the tortoise heads to avoid biting. It is wiser to wear rubber gloves and sneakers or boots while handling a tortoise. Again, hand gloves are a must when hand feeding a tortoise.

If you notice your tortoise stressed, simply leave it alone for some time. The pet will relax on its own.

Do Sulcata Tortoise Have Teeth?

Sulcata tortoises do not have teeth. Instead, these tortoises have sharp beaks and razor-like jaws. The creatures use their jaws to chew on their food and bite.

According to ancient evidence, turtles and tortoises used to have teeth. But with evolution, these creatures have learned to live without teeth. So now, turtles and tortoises use their jaws to prey and attack the opponent.

The pointy edges of their mouths act as the beaks of birds. Thus, they can bite or nip at anything efficiently.

Final Thought

Sulcata tortoises do bite you. But fortunately, they will not do much harm to you. Clean the wound with a disinfectant and go for a band-aid if required.

Tortoises usually bite when they are stressed, hungry, or vulnerable. Therefore, if you notice your tortoise acting abnormally, leave it alone and investigate the reason.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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