Tortoises in Trouble
DID YOU KNOW THAT DESERT TORTOISES:
Can live for 50-80 years
Can feel through their shell - it feels similar to scratching the top of your fingernail!
Use their bladder to store water that they can use to survive long dry periods
Drink water through their nose - this allows them to drink from shallow puddles of water after a desert rain.
Have an excellent sense of smell - which they use to navigate around their home range, find a mate, detect coming rain, and more!
HOW BIG IS A BABY DESERT TORTOISE?
ABOUT THE SIZE OF A PING PONG BALL
A desert tortoise’s life begins when they hatch in late summer and early fall (late August to early October). From the moment babies emerge, they are on their own. Desert tortoises do not parent their young. A baby desert tortoise is a tiny replica of an adult and is suited to survive its harsh desert habitat on its own from day one.
HOW DOES THE SHELL WORK? DO THEY GROW A NEW ONE AS THEY GET BIGGER?
A TORTOISE KEEPS THE SAME SHELL THEY ARE BORN WITH FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIFE.
Baby tortoises’ shells are initially soft. It takes around 5 years for it to harden. During these first years, hatchlings are very vulnerable, as they cannot hide in a strong shell for protection, like older tortoises.
WHAT PREYS ON DESERT TORTOISES?
THERE ARE MANY PREDATORS THAT EAT BABY DESERT TORTOISES, INCLUDING THE COMMON RAVEN!
Roadrunners, snakes, kit foxes and coyotes are a few examples of tortoise predators. But there is another predator that is having a major impact on survival of desert tortoise – the common raven.
While ravens have always been a part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, the recent explosion in their populations means an increase in tortoise hatchling predation, and this slow and steady species is struggling to survive.
HOW OLD DOES A DESERT TORTOISE NEED TO BE TO REPRODUCE AND HOW MANY BABIES CAN THEY HAVE?
ABOUT 14-20 YEARS OLD, AND IN A REALLY GOOD YEAR A FEMALE COULD LAY UP TO 12 EGGS!
Similar to humans, it takes the desert tortoise 14-20 years to reach sexual maturity. Desert tortoises can lay anywhere from 1 to 3 clutches (sets) of eggs each year, with about 3-4 eggs in each clutch. But, only 1 out of every 24 hatchlings survives to reproductive age – so the odds are not in the tortoise’s favor!
WHAT’S THE GOOD NEWS?
YOU CAN HELP SAVE THE DESERT TORTOISE!
Humans are the reason our raven populations have increased at an unhealthy pace, and humans can help bring balance back to the Mojave Desert!