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AZGFD: Dozens of captive desert tortoises need forever homes

Are you thinking about adopting a pet?  How about considering a pet uniquely to Arizona?

Arizona Game and Fish Department says dozens of captive desert tortoises need forever homes.

“Many people don’t even consider opening up their homes to desert tortoises, but they make fantastic and personable pets,” said Tegan Wolf, Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert Tortoise Adoption Program coordinator. “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 can provide just as much companionship and personality as a dog or cat.”

According to a news release, AZGFD has dozens of tortoises of varying ages and sizes available for adoption primarily because of illegal breeding.

Captive tortoises grow up to about 14 inches long and can live upwards of 80 years, AZGFD said. However, they cannot be released back into the wild because they could spread diseases that harm wild populations.

Arizona residents interested in providing an adoptive home can submit an online application at  Those applying to adopt a tortoise will be contacted by the department once their application is reviewed and approved.


Adopters must have a securely enclosed yard or construct a separate enclosure/burrow to protect the tortoise from potential hazards such as a fire pit, unfenced pool or dogs. The enclosed area must include an appropriate shelter for the tortoise to escape Arizona’s extreme summer heat and a place to brumate — a seasonal period of inactivity similar to hibernation — during winter.

The department typically adopts one tortoise per household, but an additional tortoise of the same sex can be adopted if it is placed in a completely separate enclosure as they can be territorial. Federal law prohibits desert tortoises from being transported across state lines.

“While it is illegal to remove Sonoran desert tortoises from the wild, it’s also illegal to allow them to breed in captivity,” the department said. “Each year, AZGFD and its partners must spend valuable resources and time to find homes for dozens of captive tortoises.”

If you suspect someone is illegally breeding Sonoran desert tortoises, you are urged to contact the AZGFD Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-352-0700. Those submitting a tip can remain anonymous.

News 4 Tucson

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