NewsArizona News


Dozens of Sonoran desert tortoises up for adoption in Arizona

Home sweet home: Missing tortoises in Arizona make their way home
Posted at 11:41 AM, Oct 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-10 19:48:10-04

PHOENIX — Arizona Game and Fish Department has dozens of Sonoran desert tortoises looking for forever homes.

The captive tortoises grow up to 14 inches long and can live upwards of 80 years.

“Due primarily to illegal breeding, the department has dozens of tortoises of varying ages and sizes available for adoption,” AZGFD said in a press release. The department is working to combat illegal breeding of the tortoises, and says one female tortoise can produce more than 800 babies in her lifetime.

The tortoises in the care of AZGFD cannot be released into the wild because of the possibility of spreading diseases that could harm wild populations.

"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. "It's rewarding to hear stories from those who have adopted a captive tortoise and made them part of the family because they're a unique alternative to traditional family pets. They offer many of the same life lessons to children and can provide just as much companionship and personality as a dog or cat."

You can fill out an application to adopt a tortoise online and find more information on how to construct a tortoise enclosure here.

You’ll be contacted by AZGFD if your application is approved.

What to know before you adopt, according to AZGFD:

  • 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.
  • The department typically adopts one tortoise per household, but an additional tortoise of the same sex can be adopted if it is placed in a completely separate enclosure as they can be territorial.
  • While it is illegal to remove Sonoran desert tortoises from the wild, it's also illegal to allow them to breed in captivity.
  • Federal law prohibits desert tortoises from being transported across state lines.

You can help AZGFD by:

  • Reporting suspected Sonoran desert tortoises by contacting AZGFD Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-352-0700.
  • Donating to the department to help cover costs for tortoise food, shelter and medical expenses.