Tortoise eating saguaro cactus fruit

Our desert tortoises enjoy eating sweet saguaro cactus fruits.

Desert Duets: Sonoran Desert Tortoise Info Web Page

Information about Sonoran Desert Tortoises

An adult Sonaron desert tortoise is from six to fifteen inches long; males are larger than females. Like all reptiles, they have tough, scaly skin. Desert tortoises have strong front legs and sharp claws, which they use to dig their burrows. They hibernate in their burrows during the winter months and stay cool in their burrows in the summer. Some burrows are quite large and more than one tortoise can occupy a singleburrow. Sometimes tortoises share their burrows with other animals, such as cottontail rabbits and snakes.

For the most part, tortoises are vegetarians. They eat grasses, wildflowers, and cactus fruits. They sniff their food before eating it. Sonoran Desert tortoises drink from rain puddles and hold water inside their bodies to keep from dehydrating. Do not pick up a wild desert tortoise. It will often urinate, which will put it at risk of dying from dehyration.

The desert tortoise is protected as a "threatened species" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. There are many reasons including housing and other kinds of development in the tortoises’ territory, roads and road construction, off-road vehicles, and collection as pets.

Tortoises should never be taken from the wild and adopted as pets. However, once a tortoise has been in captivity, it cannot be released because it might have a disease that could infect the wild tortoise population. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum runs the Tortoise Adoption Program (TAP) in order to find homes for tortoises that were pets or were hatched in captivity. TAP makes sure the people who adopt Sonoran desert tortoises will be responsible pet owners.

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Launched: February 2008
Updated: 14 July 2011