Looking for a unique pet? Adopt a desert tortoise

Wild desert tortoise, Bear Claw Poppy region of St. George, Utah, July 18, 2013 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY The Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are putting close to 40 desert tortoises up for adoption. The tortoises are being held at a facility in Washington County and some have been at the facility for almost 10 years. Nonetheless, the DWR is looking for suitable homes outside of Washington, Kane and Iron counties.

Listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species list, most of the tortoises were found after people removed the tortoises from their native homes or were found unsuitable for relocation after being removed from an area cleared for development.

Large tortoise spotted in one of his burrows south of Bear Claw Poppy Trailhead in St. George, Utah, May 17, 2013 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
Large tortoise spotted in one of his burrows south of Bear Claw Poppy Trailhead in St. George, Utah, May 17, 2013 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News | Click on photo to enlarge

Once a wild tortoise is taken from the wild, it can’t be released. Releasing it could introduce diseases into Utah’s wild tortoise population, such as Upper Respiratory Tract Disease, URTD, whether or not showing symptoms which could be communicable to other tortoises, leading to the decline of wild desert tortoise populations. 

Even though desert tortoises require some room, native aquatic species coordinator for the DWR Krissy Wilson said, caring for one is easier than caring for other pets.

“They don’t bark or chase cats,” Wilson said. “Also, they’re in hibernation six months out of the year.

Those wishing to adopt a desert tortoise will need to build burrows for the tortoise, plant dandelions, clover and other plants the tortoise can eat, and a fenced area that’s at least 15 feet by 10 feet.

Even though it takes work to provide a tortoise with a place to live, Wilson said she believes it’s worth it.

“Every desert tortoise I’ve ever seen has had its own unique personality,” she said. “You’ll notice that after you get your tortoise home.”

Resources and contact information

  • More information about adopting a desert tortoise in Utah is available in a free online Desert Tortoise Adoption booklet
  • Contact: Call Cory Noble at 801-538-4746.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

JAN 30 Adopt a desert tortoise - Jan. 30 DWR news release

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  • Bub January 30, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    adorable. I’d get one if i had an adequate yard.

  • tortoise lover January 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    My luck they would fine me for having a desert tortoise in my yard…. then take away my land so the tortoise could live there.

  • anonymous January 30, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    If I had the money to and designs build the fenced in area I would adopt one since I have a back yard with enough room for the fenced off area.

  • Sgnative January 30, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    My neighbor had one and it was always getting out. They may be slow, but they are cunning.

  • KanabCowgirl January 31, 2014 at 1:15 am

    I caught a desert tortoise once.
    I was around 4 yrs old. Had it for part of one day. It escaped from under a washtub that I put over it.
    Was sad I didn’t get to keep it longer. I catch myself thinking about it off and on.

  • Betty January 31, 2014 at 9:08 am

    “Nonetheless, the DWR is looking for suitable homes outside of Washington, Kane and Iron counties.” Why can’t they live in Washington, Kane or Iron counties? What is being done to procure homes outside of these counties? Do they thrive in snow? And why were they removed from an area being cleared for development if they are “endangered?” Maybe Brian Hyde should write a commentary on the poor, displaced tortoise that appears to be discriminated and run off from its homeland.

    • Bub January 31, 2014 at 11:49 am

      No, because freedom requires that all endangered species be slaughtered to build subdivisions.

  • James L January 31, 2014 at 10:02 am

    If you guys actually read the adoption requirements, you would find out that if you live in Washington, Kane, or Iron counties, you CANNOT adopt one….

    • Betty January 31, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Yes, I did read the article. My question was WHY must they be adopted outside these counties and what was being done to procure new homes. Maybe you should read the comments again. Idiot!

  • janiene g January 31, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I have a red foot tortoise. They are very fun to have but im already into a 50+ year commitment with mine and he’s spoiled rotten I dont think I can afford another one. .. I think this is a wonderful teaching experience for children as well. I hope u know what ur getting into and do ur research before u take one of these on.

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