Too many captive desert tortoises pose AZ challenges - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Too many captive desert tortoises pose AZ challenges

Desert tortoise (Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department) Desert tortoise (Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

There are more desert tortoises available for adoption in Arizona than there are homes willing to have one as a pet, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said.

Game and Fish officials said the problem is increasing "at an alarming rate."

The department's Tortoise Adoption Program aimed to remind residents to never remove a tortoise from the wild - it's illegal – and never allow captive tortoises to breed.

"Without the public's help in keeping wild tortoises wild and preventing backyard breeding of captive tortoises, Arizona has the potential to end up with a conservation challenge similar to the one being faced by the closure of the Tortoise Conservation Center in Nevada," said Cristina Jones, Arizona Game and Fish's turtle program coordinator.

Federal funds are running out at the center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they've been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990.

Desert tortoises are native to the southwestern desert and can live up to 100 years. They grow to be about 15 pounds and hibernate in the winter months.

A desert tortoise can produce up to 12 hatchlings per year, which then must remain in captivity to protect wild tortoise populations.
  
Those interested in sharing their yard with a tortoise should visit www.azgfd.gov/tortoise for more information on feeding, caring for, and creating a habitat for a tortoise.

A desert tortoise adoption packet, which includes the adoption application, can also be downloaded at the site.

There is a limit of one tortoise per household to prevent breeding.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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