Nevada’s governor appoints pet tortoise to backyard post
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Gov. Brian Sandoval announced a lifetime appointment of the reptilian variety to the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday: A pet tortoise named “Carson.”
The governor adopted Carson, an 11-year-old male desert tortoise, from the Tortoise Group, a rescue agency that re-homes the animal around the state. Tortoise Group Executive Director Kobbe Shaw said Carson is one of 56 adoptions this year, and he hopes to get that number to 100. Shaw said he has 180 tortoises in total up for adoption who were bred in captivity and cannot be released into the wild.
Desert tortoises are listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning “it is not Critically Endangered or Endangered but is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future …” according to the IUCN website.
Shaw said Carson could live to be between 80 and 100 years old, meaning he will likely reside at the mansion for quite some time.
“He will not only be the mascot of the mansion but he will be the legacy,” Sandoval said. “For future governors and their families, they’ll be able to enjoy him and everybody who visits will have an opportunity to see him and enjoy him. I’m just proud to have him and have a great home for him and also be host to the state reptile.”
His home consists of an enclosed area in the backyard of the mansion, including a dipping pool filled with water and a burrow – or “man cave” as the governor called it.
Normally Tortoise Group puts stickers with phone numbers on the shells in case the animals are lost, but in Carson’s case the sticker just says « Governor’s Mansion. »
Tortoise Group gave the governor a dry tortoise food mix, but Carson can also eat rose petals, grape leaves, marigolds or just about anything that grows in the Mojave Desert. However, lettuce and fruit are out of the diet, Shaw said.
The Northern Nevada winters are too harsh for tortoises to survive outside during hibernation, but that doesn’t mean Northerners can’t enjoy the pet, Shaw said.
“The only difference is in Southern Nevada they go into their burrows in the hole in the wintertime,” he said. “Up here it’s a little too cold. In the wintertime, you just put him in a box in your garage and let him sleep there.”
Carson is one of only about 20 adoptions Shaw said he does in the North in a year. A tortoise generally needs 600 square feet of space — although this is flexible — as well as a burrow that can be constructed out of basic building materials in a matter of days, Shaw said. Tortoise Group is more than happy to consult anyone interested and has a Northern Nevada chapter, he said.
Sandoval said he hoped others in the North would consider adopting tortoises as well.
“There are a lot of other tortoises like him that need good homes and if anyone out there can provide a good home we’d really appreciate it because what an incredible, incredible animal and pet,” he said.
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