On April 2, 1990 the Desert Tortoise was listed by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species. Under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act, anyone who "takes" - that is to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or attempt to engage in such conduct - a tortoise is subject to civil and/or criminal penalties of up to a $50,000 fine and one year in jail or both. The Bureau of Land Management will be assisting the Fish and Wildlife Service in the enforcement of the Act. Additionally the Desert Tortoise is considered by the State of California to be a threatened species with associated penalties.
Like other reptiles, the Desert Tortoise is cold-blooded. To survive in the desert, the tortoise "sleeps" through the heat of summer and the cold of winter in a burrow deep underground. Tortoises come out in the spring (and for a short period in the late summer and fall) to eat, drink, socialize, travel, etc. At other times of the year, they are less active or not active at all.
The female Desert Tortoise lays from 4 to 14 ping-pong ball-size eggs each year after reaching 10 to 20 years or age. Since she may live for 60 to 100 years, many eggs will be laid in a lifetime. However, only about 5 out of every 100 hatchlings will survive to become and adult tortoise. For the first 6 to 8 years, the young tortoises' shell is not thicker than your fingernail, and therefore, it is easy prey for may other desert animals - and man.
MANY HUMAN ACTIVITIES THREATEN THE SURVIVAL OF THE DESERT TORTISE AND ARE ILLEGAL:
STOP: Tortoises Do's and Dont's
· If you find a Desert Tortoise in the desert DO take pictures, get down and look at it (but not too closely so that you don't harass it), watch it to see how it moves and what it eats, and then walk away and know that you have done a good deed - letting it live in peace.
· While driving on desert roads, DO keep an eye out for tortoises crossing the road. If you encounter one and have plenty of room to pass, drive slowly and carefully around it. If you don't have room to pass, stop and let the tortoise move across the road of its own accord. If the tortoise is on a paved road and in immediate danger, pull your car over and stop in a safe place. Lift the tortoise slowly and gently, keeping it level and low to the ground. Move it to safe place, no more than 100 yards away, in the same direction it was traveling. Carefully set it down, preferably in the shade of a shrub.
· If you want a pet Desert Tortoise, DON'T take one out of the desert! There are already many displaced tortoises looking for a good home. DO call the California Turtle and Tortoise Club for adoption information. The local branch is the Joshua Tree Turtle and Tortoise Rescue at (760) 369-1235, or the California Department of Fish and Game at (714) 597-8235. You need a permit from the California Department of Fish and Game to keep a pet tortoise. Again, please call the Joshua Tree Turtle and Tortoise Rescue for this permit.
· If you get tired of a pet Desert Tortoise, DON'T release it into the desert! Release of captive tortoises is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Instead, please call one of the numbers listed above to find a new home.
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