Join our newsletter and email list


MegaDiet RF Tortoise Food
Join/Renew Membership
Online Store
Events/Meetings
Get Involved with TG
Connections
Donate to the Tortoise Group


Donations may be tax deductible.
Privacy Policy and Legal Notices
Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional

Tortoise Group Information Sheet # 29

The Law and the Desert Tortoise in Nevada: Q&A

The Mojave desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1989. The tortoise is also protected under Nevada Administrative Code (NAC 503 080). Nevada's desert tortoise is a threatened species. It is important for all of us to understand the laws regarding the wild and pet desert tortoise populations.

Wild Tortoises
Q. How do I treat a wild tortoise?
A. It is illegal to touch, disturb, harass, harm, poach, or bother a tortoise in any way. Leave a wild tortoise alone.

Q. Can I pick up shells or other tortoise parts in the desert?
A. It is illegal to collect tortoise remains.

Q. What do I do if I see a wild tortoise about to be harmed, like on a road?
A. If it is safe for you to stop, approach the tortoise from the front, pick it up, hold it level, and move it several yards beyond the side of the road or inside any fencing in the direction the tortoise was heading.

Pet Tortoises
Q. Is it legal for me to have a pet desert tortoise?
A. Yes, if you acquired your tortoise before August 4, 1989 or adopted it through a US Fish and Wildlife Service-approved adoption program, which in southern Nevada is Tortoise Group. Those who have pet desert tortoises are custodians and do not "own" the captive desert tortoise.

Q. How do I adopt a desert tortoise?
A. To find out if a desert tortoise is the right pet for you, read the first 10 pages of our care booklet Desert Tortoises: Adoption and Care or pick up a copy at any veterinary office in the Las Vegas Valley and Pahrump. Desert tortoises live for 50-70 years and require appropriate outdoor habitats including an underground burrow. If you're committed to appropriately caring for a desert tortoise, then call the Tortoise Group Hotline, 702-739-7113, to arrange for an Adoption Committee member to come to your home to discuss creating a tortoise habitat. The only legal way to adopt a desert tortoise in Nevada is through the US Fish & Wildlife Service-approved adoption program, which Tortoise Group implements. Do NOT accept pet desert tortoises from neighbors, family, friends or others, and do NOT collect desert tortoises from the wild.

Q. I am the custodian of one tortoise. Can I adopt another tortoise? I think mine is lonely.
A. Tortoise Group and state and federal agencies encourage tortoise custodians to have only one tortoise per household, preferably a male, to avoid breeding. Your desert tortoise prefers to live a solitary lifestyle and is fine with the company of you, your family, and other pets.

Q. Someone just gave me a tortoise. What do I do?
A. It is not legal to transfer a tortoise from one individual to another. The law requires you to turn the tortoise in. Call the Pet Desert Tortoise Pick-up Service at 702-488-9422. They will arrange a time to pick up the tortoise and take it to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC). If you want to adopt, first you will want to prepare your yard. See "How do I adopt a tortoise" above and click Adoption. The tortoise you were given will likely not be the one you will adopt. There are many wonderful tortoises at the DTCC waiting to be adopted.

Q. Will I get in trouble if I call a Hotline about a tortoise I have may have gotten illegally?
A. Absolutely not. Tortoise Group and the Pickup Services are devoted to helping you and your tortoise. We can give you suggestions on care and feeding, adoption, what to do with tortoises you may have found (or if you have too many), and many other topics. We seek to help you provide the best possible situation for your tortoise.

Q. Is it okay for me to breed my desert tortoises?
A. Tortoise Group and federal and state wildlife agencies strongly discourage breeding captive desert tortoises. We suggest only one tortoise per household. If you have more tortoises than you can care for, call the Pet Desert Tortoise Pick-up Service at 702-488-9422. They will pick them up and take them to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center where they will be cared for. If you keep multiple desert tortoises, separate the sexes and do not allow them to breed. Backyard breeding of desert tortoises has resulted in an overabundance of unwanted pet desert tortoises, which costs management agencies a lot of taxpayer money to manage and care for. Please, no breeding.

Q. What do I do if I find a tortoise wandering in a developed area in southern Nevada?
A. Immediately call the Pet Desert Tortoise Pick-up Service at 702-488-9422 for instructions. They will arrange a time to pick up the tortoise and take it to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. If you don't have the number handy, take the tortoise home. Place the tortoise in a clean, well-ventilated container, such as a cardboard box, and keep it in a dry area with moderate temperature, such as a bathroom or laundry room. (If you don't have a box, put the tortoise on the floor in a bathroom or laundry room and shut the door.) The tortoise will be okay without food, but you can offer it a drink of water in a shallow dish. Make sure the tortoise is safe from children and pets.

  • The tortoise must be turned over to the Pet Desert Tortoise Pick-up Service.
  • Do not release the tortoise in the desert.
  • Do not keep the tortoise for yourself or give it to anyone else.

Q. What do I do if I have a wild tortoise that I recently collected from the desert in southern Nevada and have taken it home?
A. Call the Clark County Wild Tortoise Assistance Line immediately at 702-593-9027 for instructions. They will arrange a time to pick up the tortoise and take it to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. If you don't have the number handy, take the tortoise home. Place the tortoise in a clean, well-ventilated container, such as a cardboard box, and keep it in a dry area with moderate temperature, such as a bathroom or laundry room. (If you don't have a box, put the tortoise on the floor in a bathroom or laundry room and shut the door.) The tortoise will be okay without food, but you can offer it a drink of water in a shallow dish. Make sure the tortoise is safe from children and pets.

  • The tortoise must be turned over to the Clark County Wild tortoise Assistance Line.
  • Do not release the tortoise in the desert.
  • Do not keep the tortoise for yourself or give it to anyone else.

Q. What do I do if I see a wild tortoise in the desert?
A. Wild desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert are protected under the Endangered Species Act and state law. Dead or alive they are not to be touched, collected, or disturbed in any way. However, if you find a wild tortoise on a busy road through the desert, you may help it across the road. Pick it up slowly, from the front, hands firmly on each side. Hold it level and carry it several yards away from the road in the direction it was heading. Place it in the shade, such as under a shrub.

Q. What do I do if I have a pet tortoise that I can no longer keep?
A. They are not to be released in the desert or transferred to family, friends, neighbors or others. Instead, call the Pet Desert Tortoise Pick-up Service, 702-488-9422. They will take it to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center where it will be taken care of.

Q. My tortoise is living with me in Nevada. May I take it with me when I move to another state?
A. A Nevada tortoise must not cross state lines without written permission from both the exporting and importing states' wildlife agencies. You will need an exportation permit from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, which will not be granted unless an importation permit from the state you're moving to has already been authorized by that state's wildlife agency. And remember, a tortoise should live in the desert.

Q. I am moving from California to Nevada, one desert area to another. May I bring my tortoise with me?
A. Only if both the exporting and importing states' wildlife agencies provide written permission prior to your move.

Infosheet list

www.tortoisegroup.org
Hotline: (702) 739-7113
5/12