(KCPW News) If you’re looking for a unique pet, Wildlife Biologist Jason Jones with the Division of Wildlife Resources may have just what you’re looking for: a Mojave desert tortoise.
“They’re very charismatic, they’re very amiable, super social,” says Jones. “They’re extremely bright. They adapt readily to kind of a house style of life. And what better pet to have than one that is kind of asleep for half the year?”
The endangered tortoises are up for adoption to good homes with secure backyards and plenty of dandelions and clover. Jones calls them escape artists, one of the reasons the state receives between six to 12 of them each year. They’re found wandering the streets, or discovered by state wildlife officials in people’s homes who have taken them from the wild.
Desert tortoises were listed as an endangered species in 1980. Their numbers have been impacted by habitat loss and, lately, a highly infectious upper respiratory disease. Jones says the future of the species depends on people following a simple rule:
“People need to keep wild tortoises wild and keep captive tortoises captive,” Jones says. “When you take a wild tortoise from the wild, you’re impacting that wild population, and the genetics and social structure. So enjoy wild tortoises in the wild, don’t touch them, give them respect; they are federally listed. And if you have a tortoise at home, don’t release it and make sure you have an escape-proof back yard.”
Those willing to foster a tortoise have to build burrows to keep them cool during summer days and warm at night. And they must provide them a safe place to hibernate indoors during the winter months. For more information, the DWR has an online booklet available.