Rangewide Lands & Information on Recovery/Ecology
The Desert Tortoise Recovery Office (DTRO),based at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office in Reno, Nevada, was established to address population declines and focus on recovery of the Mojave desert tortoise which occurs north and west of the Colorado River in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Here’s more information on the 2011 Revised Recovery Plan(5.7 MB PDF).
Desert Tortoise Council established in 1976 to promote conservation of the Mojave and Sonoran desert tortoise in the deserts of the southwestern U.S. & Mexico. Visit the Council’s website for information on annual symposium, proceedings, workshops, education grants, conservation and management, bylaws, and newsletter.
ARIZONA Links & Information on Regulations & Adoption
Rules and Regulations pertaining to desert tortoises in Arizona: Both the Mojave and Sonoran desert tortoise reside in Arizona. Arizona law has prohibited removal of any desert tortoise from the wild since 1989. The Mojave desert tortoise has been listed as Threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) since 1990. The Sonoran desert tortoise is listed as a Candidate species by the USFWS, and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need by theArizona Game and Fish Department.
Lawfully obtained desert tortoises may be privately adopted, but desert tortoise adoption in Arizona is subject to specific rules. Per Commission Order 43, possession limit is one desert tortoise per person.
Per Commission Rule R12-4-407(A)(1), desert tortoises legally held prior to April 28, 1989, may be possessed, transported, and propagated without a special license. Progeny of lawfully held desert tortoises may, for 24 months from date of hatching, be held in captivity in excess of the stated limit. Before or upon reaching 24 months of age, such progeny must be disposed of by gift to another person or as directed by the Department. An individual who receives a desert tortoise that is given away under this rule is also exempt from the special license requirements. An individual shall not export a desert tortoise from this state unless authorized in writing by the Department.
Per Arizona Revised Statues 17-306, an individual shall not release desert tortoises.
Information on the management and conservation of both species can be found at the Arizona Game and Fish Department desert tortoise website.
Captive Tortoise Information:
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and its partners administer the desert tortoise adoption program. If you are a permanent Arizona resident and interested in caring for a captive tortoise, please visit our captive tortoise website for information on how to adopt and care for one.
Found a Desert Tortoise? Find out what to do if you have found a desert tortoise in your neighborhood or in the wild at our desert tortoise encounter website. Visit our Turtle ID website to help you identify other turtle species commonly encountered in Arizona.
To report any suspicious activity or knowledge about a poaching violation, please contact Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700.
NEVADA Links & Information on Regulations & Adoption:
Nevada Department of Wildlife Rules and Regulations: The Mojave desert tortoise is listed as a threatened species, and is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Nevada Administrative Code (NAC 503.080). Desert tortoises may be legally kept as pets if they were held in captivity on or before August 4, 1989 (50 CFR 17.4, NAC 503.093). Progeny of legally held desert tortoises are protected from harassment, wounding, or killing (“take”) under the ESA (50 CFR 17.4), although “possession,” basic care, or non-commercial transfer of such progeny in captivity are not prohibited (16 USC 1532, 50 CFR 17.3). NAC 503.093 requires that any desert tortoise not already
held in captivity on or before August 4, 1989, must be acquired through an adoption program approved by the USFWS and must be registered with Tortoise Group. The release of pet desert tortoises to the wild is illegal without prior authorization from NDOW (NAC 503.135, NRS 501.105, NRS 501.181, NRS 503.597). Please register all captive tortoises:
Captive Tortoise Information:
Tortoise Group provides up to date information (i.e., FAQs, tips, videos) on adopting tortoises in Southern Nevada. If you are a Nevada resident and interested in caring for a captive tortoise please contact the Tortoise Group today! firstname.lastname@example.org; Tortoise Group, PO Box 33866, Las Vegas, NV 89133-3866; (702) 739-7113.
Also visit The Animal Foundation, Lied Animal Shelter, 655 North Mojave Road, Las Vegas, NV 89101, phone: 702-384-3333.
Lost/Found: If you find/lose a tortoise review the following information:
CALIFORNIA Links & Information on Regulations & Adoption:
Rules and Regulations pertaining to desert tortoises in California: The Mojave desert tortoise is the only native tortoise species that resides in California. California law has prohibited removal of desert tortoises from the wild since 1972. The desert tortoise has been listed as Threatened by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) since 1989 and by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service since 1990.
Lawfully obtained desert tortoises may be privately adopted, subject to specific rules. Per California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 674, desert tortoises may be possessed only under the authority of a permit issued by the Department.
Per Fish and Game Code 5000, it is unlawful to sell, purchase, harm, take, or transport any tortoise (Gopherusspp.) or parts thereof, or to shoot any projectile at a tortoise. Per Fish and Game Code 5001and the abovementioned regulation, desert tortoises legally acquired and possessed prior to March 7, 1973, may continue to be possessed, but documentation, marking, and a special permit are required. Possession of desert tortoises is illegal except under the authority of a permit issued by the Department, and transfer of captive desert tortoises is not permitted without prior Department approval. Per California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 40, an individual shall not release into the wild any desert tortoises previously held in captivity without prior written approval from the Department. Per California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 43, it is illegal to captive breed desert tortoises without a permit from the Department.
Information on the status and conservation of California’s threatened and endangered species, including the Mojave desert tortoise, can be found on the Department’s website.
Captive Tortoise Information:
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife administer the desert tortoise adoption program through the California Turtle & Tortoise Club (CTTC). If you are a permanent California resident and interested in adopting a captive tortoise, please visit the CTTC’s website for information on how to adopt and care for one.
Found a Desert Tortoise? If it is in an undeveloped area, leave it alone. If it is in a residential area, away from natural areas, it is likely an escaped captive tortoise, and the CTTC should be contacted to try to find its owner through the Department’s permitting program or to arrange for its adoption.
UTAH Links & Information on Regulations & Adoption:
Utah Department of Wildlife Rules and Regulations: The Mojave desert tortoise is listed as a threatened species, and is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Utah Administrative Rule (R657-53). Utah law prohibits the removal of any desert tortoises from the wild as well as propagation and importation of desert tortoises. Under Utah’s adoption program, a Certificate of Registration can be obtained to legally possess a captive desert tortoise. Only one captive tortoise will be placed in each household and only to residences outside of Washington, Kane, and Iron Counties. The release of captive desert tortoises to the wild is illegal.
Captive Tortoise Information:
Utah’s Desert Tortoise Adoption Booklet provides information (i.e., FAQs, tips, husbandry of captive tortoises) on the process to adopt tortoises in Utah including what to expect and how to prepare your yard. If you are interested in adopting a captive tortoise please call 801-538-4746 or email email@example.com.
Utah Administrative Rule (R657-53):
Utah Department of Natural Resources Administrative Rules outlines the rules and regulations of reptiles and amphibians within the State of Utah. Collection of desert tortoises from the wild is prohibited. Possession of a captive desert tortoise is controlled through the UDWR desert tortoise adoption program.
Found a Desert Tortoise? If it is in an undeveloped area, leave it alone. If it is in harm’s way, or in an urban area, contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources at 801-538-4746 (Salt Lake City) or 435-879-8694 (St. George).
It is illegal to harm or remove a wild desert tortoise. Please report desert tortoise poaching violations through our state hotline 1-800-662-3337. Your report can remain confidential if you wish.