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New rules halt tortoise breeding, encourage adoptions

New rules halt tortoise breeding, encourage adoptions

While it has been illegal since 1989 to capture a wild desert tortoise in Arizona, recent regulations have banned the breeding of legally-held tortoises, a rule that spawned from an overwhelming number of the reptiles taken in by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD).

“We’re kind of in a crisis with the load of tortoises that need to be adopted,” said Chris Bedinger, information and education program manager at AZGFD’s Region IV, which includes Yuma County.

Bedinger said that there are about 60 tortoises statewide that need to be adopted. The Yuma office, one of four state-sanctioned adoption facilities, can house up to a dozen tortoises and currently has four.

AZGFD spends “considerable effort and resources caring for and trying to find suitable homes” for the tortoises, according to a press release.

It is illegal to release them into the wild because they might spread diseases, something that AZGFD says has been a problem in California.

While the agency hopes to have more people adopt the animals, Bedinger said AZGFD continues to take in tortoises that can no longer be cared for by the owner.

With more tortoises given up than adopted, many of the ones that are dropped off in Yuma go to the AZGFD Adobe Wildlife Center in Phoenix, where most of the animals are kept.

“We’re just not getting enough applications locally,” Bedinger said.

There is no fee for adopting a tortoise, but people who would like to adopt are required to show that they have the ability to adequately take care of the animal.

A captive desert tortoise requires a secure habitat. The AZGFD recommends an area of at least 324 square feet. It must also be fenced off from a deep water source, since desert tortoises are unable to swim.

Desert tortoises can live to be around 100-years-old, so owners are also strongly encouraged to make sure they are ready to commit to taking care of the pets long-term. Possession limit is one per person.

A complete adoption checklist is available online.

Arizona residents who would like to adopt a tortoise can do so by contacting the AZGFD. For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov, and search “desert tortoise adoption.” The Yuma office, located at 9140 E. 28th St., can be reached at (928) 342-0091.