Many households across this nation have some sort of pet at home. For most, it’s either a dog or a cat. For others, it may be some tropical/temperate fish tanks, reptiles, or birds. For those of you in Arizona, there is a very unique opportunity for a very unique pet for your home. You could be one of the lucky few to welcome a Sonoran Desert Tortoise to your home.
“Many people don’t even consider opening up their homes to desert tortoises, but they make fantastic and personable pets,” said Tegan Wolf, desert tortoise adoption program coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD).
“It’s rewarding to hear stories from those who have adopted a captive tortoise and made them part of the family, because they’re a unique alternative to traditional family pets. They offer many of the same life lessons to children, and they can provide just as much companionship and personality as a dog or cat.”
Mainly due to illegal breeding, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has 200 captive-bred desert tortoises available for adoption. They are all varying in sizes and ages, but should max out about 14″ long and capable of living up to 80 – 100 years with proper care. Due to being illegally captive-bred, these tortoises are not eligible to be released due to the possibility of diseases being introduced to the wild population.
Arizona residents interested in providing an adoptive home should review the Tortoise Adoption Program page on the department’s website. Instructions on how to properly care for a desert tortoise and how to build an enclosure/burrow are included. Residents of Arizona interested in providing a forever home for a tortoise should review the Tortoise Adoption Program page here. Instructions on how to properly care for a desert tortoise as well as how to build a proper burrow/enclosure are also available there.
Once you have a burrow/enclosure complete, you can submit an online application at www.azgfd.gov/tortoise. All applications will be reviewed by AZGFD and applicants will be contacted by the department. To be eligible adopters must have enclosed yards, or construct a separate enclosure for the tortoise. This is to keep the tortoise away from potential hazards like fire pits, unfenced in-ground pools, or dogs and cats.
The enclosure must also include an appropriate shelter for the tortoise to escape the Arizona heat and a place to brumate, seasonal inactivity similar to hibernation, during the winter.
Watch a video on how to build a tortoise shelter
AZGFD allows for one tortoise to be adopted per person, per household. But you may adopt an additional tortoise of the same sex but it must be placed in a separate enclosure due to its territorial nature. Federal law prohibits desert tortoises from being transported across state lines, so Arizona residents only.