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Desert Tortoise Gopherus agassizii


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Desert Tortoise
credit: Wilson44691

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Family: Testudinidae, Tortoises view all from this family

Description Shell domes. Plastron on males concave and yellowish. Oblong carapace with scutes. Brown. Small head and greenish-yellow eyes. Front and hind feet all the same size.

Dimensions 23.5-36.8cm. (9 1/4-14 1/2")

Endangered Status The Desert Tortoise is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in Arizona (except in areas south and east of the Colorado River), California, Nevada, and Utah. Desert Tortoises have suffered declines due to the degradation of habitat, predation of eggs and young, disease, and collection for the pet trade. Mining, agriculture, industrial and residential development, and the proliferation of off-road vehicles have contributed to the alteration of their desert habitat. Tortoise populations are slow to recover from population losses because the females do not breed until they are 15 to 20 years old. Then they may lay eggs only when feeding conditions are favorable. The young tortoises are so vulnerable to predators and other hazards, it is estimated that only 2 to 3 percent survive into adulthood.

Breeding Spring, eggs laid May-July. 2-3 clutches, 2-14 eggs per clutch. Nest 6" deep, funnel shaped. Sometimes dug at mouth of burrow. Hatch in August-October. Mature at 15-20 years.

Habitat Canyon bottoms, Creosote, scrub and cacti areas.

Range California through s. Nevada to Mexico.

Discussion Feeds early mornings to late afternoon. Some tortoise tunnels found have been over 30' feet long. Often spend winter in communal dens, surface in March. Males fight when they meet. Wil bob their heads and then rush at each other clashing their gulag scutes together. Sometimes end up overturned.