Dogs and cats are animals that are typically adopted daily. However, for the lovers of reptiles and the non-furry variety, there are many desert tortoises that need homes as well. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the organization has about 40 tortoises to adopt out to homes in the Yuma, Phoenix and Prescott area through their Tortoise Adoption program.
Those wishing to adopt must be pre-approved by submitting an application and checklist as well as provide photos of their yard and shelter. Desert tortoises will be available to pre-approved applicants at an event in early September and thereafter until Oct. 1 by appointment, according to a Game and Fish press release.
There are specific enclosure requirements for accommodating a desert tortoise. The requirements include an enclosed area of the yard free from potential hazards such as a pool or a dog. Additionally, the enclosed area must provide shelter and shade for the tortoise to find refuge in against Arizona’s severe temperatures.
Desert tortoises have a life span that can go up to 100 years and are native to the southwestern desert. They can weigh up to 15 pounds full-grown and go into hibernation in the winter. Their diet consists of plant material such as grasses and wildflowers.
Upper respiratory diseases are common among captive, desert tortoises due to living in close quarters, and as thus they cannot be released back into the wild as they can spread those respiratory diseases to wild tortoise populations, explained Lynda Lambert, public information officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Also, it is illegal and harmful to collect desert tortoises from the wild.
According to the news release, excessive backyard breeding plays a large role in the overpopulation of desert tortoises in captivity. “A lot of people don’t take the time to understand if they have a male or a female and they allow them to mate,” Lambert said. “Tortoises produce quite a few young in every clutch, and so you quickly have overpopulation. It’s like the dogs and the cats, a lot of extra breeding and not enough homes.”
Those who would like to share their yard with a desert tortoise may visit http://www.azgfd.gov/tortoise for more information on caring for one. Adoption packets with the checklists and applications are also available for download on this site. Tucson residents who are interested in adopting can contact the department-sanctioned adoption facility Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at www.desertmuseum.org.