Chances are you’re a fan of the desert tortoise and you’re looking to find out more about it prior to proceeding with your intent to get one. The first thing you should know if you live in the US is that this is a protected species and thus you’re going to need to get a special permit before you acquire one, then move on with the nurturing.
To begin with, these are mainly land tortoises that are commonly found in areas such as the Mojave desert – the southwestern part of the states including parts of Nevada, California and Arizona. When it comes to family they’re part of the Testudinidae family and although they’re not that large in size they’re still remarkable animals. Their shell length extends up to 15 inches.
People refer to them as the main reptiles in the region hence they’re featured in a number of animal magazines. One of the main reasons why they’re distinguishable from most tortoises is that they actually prefer to keep away from water and the only exception is when they’re drinking it.
Another characteristic worthy of note is that the desert tortoises are exothermic which means that they are incapable of controlling their body temperature and rely upon the environment for adjustment. As soon as the temperature goes over a certain point they automatically go below the earth in search of a cooler spot in which to live and stay there until they’re comfortable enough to emerge back up.
If you’re willing to house one of these tortoises yourself, there are a few things you’ll have to take in consideration first. Desert tortoises prefer to live outdoors hence you’ll be better off if you already have plenty of space for it but you’ll have to make sure that the area is clear of plants which are poisonous for protection/safety purposes.
Your tortoise is going to need some water within reach as well as shelter from constant exposure to the sun or cold. It’s not uncommon for a desert tortoise to become sick and one of the main reasons why is because these tortoises are very responsive in terms of nutrition and they’re selective with their food. Not only will you have to feed the tortoise regularly but you’ll also need access to a constant supply of green leafy vegetables if you don’t have lots of grass.
In terms of hibernation, these tortoises usually do it at the end of fall until mid winter (Oct-Feb) although it’s not wise to leave an ill tortoise hibernating. If you’re housing a female then she might lay more than 10 eggs at one time and expect the small tortoises to come out a few months later. What’s interesting about desert tortoises is that unlike most animals it’s not uncommon for them to live up to a century and thus outlive their owner in the process.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that the overall population of this tortoise is starting to see decline due to major environmental changes. If we only go back 60 years ago you could find hundreds of desert tortoises within a few square miles. There was also lots of vandalism and mass collecting done to these tortoises is has now made illegal but it severely affected the population. In addition, the average female has an extremely low reproductive potential and not that many hatchlings tend to make it.
Finally, because this is an endangered species the government has effectively implemented laws which protect this tortoise in particular and it’s illegal to simply buy or sell it. If you want to take care of a desert tortoise you’ll first have to acquire a permit from the state and even if you do get it and decide that you want to get rid of it later you’ll have to reach out to the local authorities because it’s illegal to release it out into the wilderness.