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AZ Press: Why did the tortoise cross?

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Wed Mar 30 11:00:39 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

DAILY MINER (Kingman, Arizona) 28 March 11 Why did the desert tortoise cross the road? Arizona Game & Fish wishes 'helpful' people would just let them get to the other side
Kingman: The Arizona Game and Fish backlog has come early in 2011.
It's not paperwork, but tortoises.
"It's still early and we've been getting tortoises dropped off at the office," said John Kraft, non-game biologist with the Game and Fish office in Kingman. "It's a little alarming."
The slow-moving, even-tempered desert tortoise is common throughout the county. Individuals wanting to save tortoises from a perceived threat remove them from the wild and bring them to Game and Fish and sometimes bring them home as a pet.
Desert tortoises are a protected species in the state of Arizona and it is against the law to harass, kill, or remove them from the wild.
"Once a tortoise has been in captivity, we have few options," Kraft said. "They are not released back to the wild."
Kraft explained two important factors come into play when handling tortoises. First, like camels, they store water, but will relieve themselves in stressful situations, such as human handling, leaving no stored supply to sustain them through hot, dry summer months. Secondly, there are disease factors to consider, and once a tortoise is handled for a length of time, it can't be returned to the wild.
Hence, the Adopt-a-Tortoise Program, which makes an effort to find a healthy home environment.
Upper respiratory tract disease, which can spread quickly throughout the desert tortoise population, has been implicated in tortoise population declines.
Because of the potential for a disease-based die-off, it is important adoptive owners never release captive tortoises back into the wild. In the event a tortoise is no longer wanted, it should be returned to the Game and Fish office.
"We just don't know a lot about this disease's potential impact in Arizona," Kraft explained. "So, when a tortoise remains in contact with people for a prolonged period of time, we can't release it into the wild. And, it would be ideal if these animals remained in the wild, not fenced in on a person's property."
Kraft added that under no circumstance should people captive breed tortoises.
"We have enough trouble finding adoptive homes as it is," he said, noting the Kingman office currently has 14 up for adoption.
While need for adoptive parents is immediate, Game and Fish personnel would prefer these animals be left in the wild and advise people to let the tortoises complete their journeys without interference.
"A tortoise in the road is simply trying to get to the other side," Kraft said. "If a situation is considered hazardous, people can help the tortoise to the other side of the road by holding both sides of its shell and keeping it low to the ground to diminish stress on the animal. Make sure you help it continue in the direction it is heading. Once on the other side, the tortoise will likely continue its journey.
"However, and I can't stress this enough, the tortoise should not be handled for any length of time and they should not be brought home or to our office. The best thing anyone can do is to leave the tortoises in the wild."
Caring for a desert tortoise isn't necessarily easy, explained Zen Mocarski, public information officer for the Kingman regional office.
The desert tortoise, when left undisturbed, can live to be 100 years old and average better than 60 years. They weigh anywhere from 7 to 13 pounds and lay one to 15 eggs between May and July.
Individuals wishing to adopt are required to build a secure habitat for the tortoise prior to taking possession. For information regarding adoption requirements, check the Game and Fish website: For those who meet the requirements or do not have the internet, contact the Kingman regional office at (928) 692-7700.
Why did the desert tortoise cross the road?


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