Desert Tortoise

Alternative Name
Scientific Name: Gopherus agassizii

Basic Info

The Desert Tortoise ranges between 9.25 and 14.5 inches in length. The hatchlings are significantly smaller, usually about the size of a silver dollar.


In captivity, the Desert Tortoise should feed primarily on grasses. They should also be offered things such as spineless prickly pear cactus, dark leafy green vegetables, grape leaves, and small amounts of alfalfa and cactus fruits and flowers. They can occasionally be given a treat of fruits such as berries and melons as well. A Desert Tortoise in captivity should always have access to fresh, water in a shallow bowl. They do not drink often, but do require some water. Desert Tortoises should be kept outdoors in a desert climate. They need direct sunlight, but also need plenty of shade to escape from the hot sun. If they must be kept indoors keep them in a spacious enclosure with heat lamps as well as full spectrum lighting. The enclosure should have a warm area and a cooler area, keeping heat lamps to one side helps to create the ideal environment.

Desert Tortoise

Common throughout the Colorado, Sonoran, and Mojave Deserts


The Desert Tortoise is a moderately sized tortoise native throughout the Southwestern United States. The Desert Tortoise is now considered an endangered species and is rarely seen in the wild. Desert Tortoises are sometimes available for adoption to suitable homes, provided the owner does not wish to take the tortoise out of the desert climate. The Desert Tortoise can live to between 30 and 70 years. They spend the majority of this time in burrows in the desert. They require very little water to drink and get most of what they need from the food they eat. In the wild, Desert Tortoises often drink only after a heavy rain, when they will drain a puddle of water. The water that they drink helps to flush out toxins in their bodies. They may have only one drink of water in an entire year.


North America


At one time, Desert Tortoises were common throughout the Colorado, Sonoran, and Mojave Deserts. These deserts are in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The population of the tortoises has decreased greatly since the 1970s. It is estimated that there are now 90% fewer tortoises in the wild than there once were. The reasons for this drastic decrease in population are many and include destruction of habitat, collection for the pet trade, and getting run over vehicles. They are also prone to an upper respiratory tract disease, which has only appeared recently and is usually fatal. Efforts are being made to conserve the Desert Tortoise's habitat. In some regions, such as Clark County, Nevada, "pick-up programs" are in effect. In this program Desert Tortoises that have been found in areas being developed are released in protected areas. Desert Tortoises

Common Foods

In the wild Desert Tortoises feed primarily on grasses, weeds, cactus and cactus fruits.

Related feeds
Dog Cat Horse Birds Fish Snake Turtle Tortoise Salamander and Newts