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Utah Travel Headlines

Thursday, January 30, 2014

You Can Adopt A Utah Desert Tortoise

The desert tortoise is an interesting species native to the Mojave Desert area around St. George, in southwestern Utah. Sadly, habitat for the creatures has diminished over the years and the tortoise is listed as a threatened.

Recently, large areas have been set aside and are being managed with the specific objective of protecting range used by the tortoise and other native species.


The desert tortoise is a very unusual animal - often growing large and living for decades.

Over the years, some tortoises have been "kidnapped" from their homes and then recovered by wildlife officers. Others have been displaced as development has destroyed habitat. Utah wildlife officials have been caring for many such animals and are now looking for people to adopt some. DWR provided the details below.
Nearly 40 tortoises need homes in Utah
Wouldn't it be fun to have a pet that makes your neighbors "ooh" and "aah"?
Almost 40 desert tortoises are up for adoption in Utah.
Almost 40 desert tortoises are up for adoption in Utah.
Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
As long as you're willing to give up part of your backyard, you can.
Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are putting close to 40 desert tortoises up for adoption.
The tortoises are being held at a facility in Washington County. Some of the tortoises have been at the facility for almost 10 years.
More information about adopting a desert tortoise in Utah is available in the free Desert Tortoise Adoption booklet.
If you'd like to adopt one of the tortoises, or if you have questions, please call Cory Noble, native aquatic species biologist with the DWR, at 801-538-4746.
A unique pet
Listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species list, most of the tortoises were found after people removed the tortoises from their native homes. (Once a wild tortoise is taken from the wild, it can't be released. Releasing it could introduce diseases into Utah's wild tortoise population.)
Even though desert tortoises require some room, Krissy Wilson says caring for one is easier than caring for other pets. "They don't bark or chase cats," says Wilson, native aquatic species coordinator for the DWR. "Also, they're in hibernation six months out of the year."
To adopt a desert tortoise, you need a fenced area that's at least 15 feet by 10 feet. Tortoises also need burrows, so you'll need to build some. And you'll need to plant dandelions, clover and other plants the tortoise can eat.
Even though it takes work to provide a tortoise with a place to live, Wilson says it's worth it. "Every desert tortoise I've ever seen has had its own unique personality," she says. "You'll notice that after you get your tortoise home."
Wilson says some of the tortoises contracted an upper respiratory tract infection while they were in the wild. She says the infection only affects tortoises. The infection cannot be passed to humans or pets.

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