Last Saturday Krissy was driving into the alley behind our house when she saw a moving lump in the road. When she realized that it was a turtle she called me. I was making dinner, so she grabbed a bucket and saved its life. She took it over to a pet store and asked if they knew what kind of turtle it was and how we should take care of it. After the employee took the turtle in the back for a second opinion, she identified it as a Desert Tortoise. As it turns out, it is illegal to harass or touch a wild Desert Tortoise, because they are considered a threatened species in the wild. In order to keep one as a pet you have to have a permit, and once they have lived with people, they won’t survive in the wild.
Over the weekend Krissy took good care of our new friend. She started calling the turtle Buddy. We had no idea whether it was a male or a female, but since the name Buddy stuck, we started calling it a him. She placed him in the bottom of a large, empty plastic storage container. She set out water and some small pieces of cabbage and lettuce in the enclosure. Buddy did not like being cooped up in such a small space and spent a good hour trying to climb out. The turtle was completely unsuccessful and would come down with a thud over and over with his nails scratching the plastic walls as he fell. He seemed scared for the first day or so, but by Sunday evening he was willing to stay out of his shell and just sit there.
Early today Krissy contacted Arizona Fish and Game to ask what we should do with the turtle. She drove out to the site, nearly an hour away, and they identified the turtle as a female Desert Tortoise. They said she was in very good health, which lead them to believe that she is someone’s pet. Since Krissy had to leave the turtle with them, we won’t see her again, but Krissy and I will be putting up signs around the neighborhood with the wildlife shelter’s number in case the turtle belongs to anyone nearby. We are going to leave the signs intentionally vague so they have to identify their turtle in order to get it back. Krissy and I were sad to see Buddy go. She was a good turtle. Now we are considering possibly getting licensed and adopting a captive Desert Tortoise. All you really need is a basic shelter, a 6×6 foot plot of land, and an understanding of what the turtle needs to eat to be healthy. Make sure its shelter doesn’t flood, and you’re there!
Desert Tortoises are adapted to living in the desert and can, therefore live outdoors with minimal human interaction for 80 to 100 years! This would be the perfect pet for people who work and can’t spend a lot of time interacting with their animals.
Take care, Buddy, and I hope everything works out for you!