Backyard breeding has created a tortoise population problem
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) — As temperatures continue to rise in southern Nevada, pet tortoises come out of their burrows and breed. A local adoption group is looking up north to unload the surplus of reptiles.
The protected, desert tortoise is threatened in the wild, but growing out of control in captivity.
This is why backyard breeding of tortoises has become a problem.
Contrary to popular belief backyard breeding of tortoises doesn’t help the wild population. It actually hurts the reptile.
“We’re really concerned about disease you can’t just take those tortoises and put them on to the landscape,” said Mike Senn with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.” We have to be assured that they are not carrying a disease that can be transmitted to other tortoises.”
Senn says his agency is trying to manage the captive tortoises separate from the wild population.
For example, it is illegal to release a pet tortoise into the desert.
A new state regulation passed last year allows pet tortoise owners to own just one of the reptiles at a time.
“It’s important just to keep one because it’s difficult to sterilize tortoises,” Senn said.
Senn said the females can store male sperm in them for well over five years so if they breed they could have eggs many years after that which is what happened to one Las Vegas tortoise owner.“It’s very difficult for us to find homes for them we can find them in ones or twos but when you’re faced with 50 or 60 tortoises,” said Jim Cornall from the Tortoise Group who is expanding its adoption program to Northern Nevada.