As the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Clark County faces funding shortages and an overabundance of pet desert tortoises, Northern Nevadans have an opportunity to adopt one as a pet.
“For the right household, a desert tortoise can make an excellent pet,” said Nevada Department of Wildlife Biologist Cris Tomlinson. “They can be quite friendly, are mostly very low maintenance as they hibernate for nearly five months of the year and just like people, pet tortoises have their own personality.”
Some of the desert tortoises at the center cannot be translocated to the wild, but are suitable to be adopted as pets.
With proper preparation, pet desert tortoises can be kept in more northerly areas of Nevada.
“Prospective adoptees can make simple modifications to their homes and yards to safely accommodate a pet desert tortoise,” said Tomlinson. “When the temperatures drop over winter, the tortoise needs to be kept indoors, ideally in a cool place such as an unfinished basement, a cooler spare bedroom, or an insulated garage. They should overwinter in a ventilated container that is adequately sized so the tortoise can turn around. Most indoor temperatures are too high.”
Also, it is important to have a burrow that allows the tortoise to regulate its body temperature, and a fence that prevents escape. Ideally a tortoise requires a moderately sized, fenced yard and at least one appropriate burrow to evade the heat in the summer. They require grasses, forbs, and flowers (especially dandelions and clover) in their diet.
The lifespan of the desert tortoise is another thing to consider with some of them living for more than 50 years.
Now is a good time for adoptions given tortoises will soon brumate, much like hibernation, with winter coming. NDOW Southern Region staff will be making trips to Reno to deliver tortoises to the Reno Turtoise Club and elsewhere. Additionally, some upcoming trips to Winnemucca, Elko and Ely will also be scheduled. Those considering adopting a tortoise can contact Tomlinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jason Jones at email@example.com or by calling 702-486-5127. NDOW’s current regulation allows the possession of only one pet desert tortoise per household as of May 1, 2013, to help deal with the over breeding of pet tortoises.
An adopted tortoise must be registered with the Tortoise Group once received at www.tortoisegroup.org. Additionally, they have considerable information for the care, husbandry and diet of the tortoise in an adoption and care booklet and appropriate burrow designs. Also, the Reno Turtoise Club has information for care of pet desert tortoises in Northern Nevada at www.sierrawave.org/rttc. Finally, never release a pet tortoise to the wild and leave wild tortoises alone as it is against the law.