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Wed, Nov. 13

Desert tortoises need forever homes

A desert tortoise is shown in this 2005 photo. The Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert Tortoise Adoption Program is looking for Arizonans willing to adopt tortoises seized from illegal breeders. (Public Domain photo)

A desert tortoise is shown in this 2005 photo. The Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert Tortoise Adoption Program is looking for Arizonans willing to adopt tortoises seized from illegal breeders. (Public Domain photo)

PHOENIX – For some, a dog or cat will do just fine. But for others who are considering adopting something uniquely Arizona, say hello to your next family member: a captive Sonoran desert tortoise. “Many people don’t even consider opening up their homes to desert tortoises, but they make fantastic and personable pets,” said Tegan Wolf, Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert Tortoise Adoption Program coordinator.

Due primarily to illegal breeding, the department has dozens of tortoises of varying ages and sizes available for adoption. Captive tortoises grow up to about 14 inches long and can live upwards of 80 years, however, they cannot be released back into the wild because they could spread diseases that harm wild populations.

Arizona residents interested in providing an adoptive home can submit an online application at www.azgfd.gov/tortoise and find an information packet on how to properly care for a tortoise, including instructions on how to build an enclosure/burrow. Those applying will be contacted by the department once their application is reviewed and approved.

Adopters must have a securely enclosed yard or construct a separate enclosure/burrow to protect the tortoise from potential hazards such as a fire pit, unfenced pool or dogs. The enclosed area must include an appropriate shelter for the tortoise to escape Arizona’s extreme summer heat and a place to brumate – a seasonal period of inactivity similar to hibernation – during winter.

For more information about AZGFD’s Tortoise Adoption Program or to provide a donation to help the department cover costs for tortoise food, shelter and medical expenses, visit www.azgfd.gov/tortoise.

If you suspect someone is illegally breeding Sonoran desert tortoises, please contact the AZGFD Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-352-0700. Those submitting a tip can remain anonymous.

Information provided by Arizona Game and Fish Department

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