DWR Hosting First Desert Tortoise Viewing Event

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Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

DWR Press Release

Cedar City — Spring is a great time to visit southern Utah, especially with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources hosting its first-ever desert tortoise viewing event!

The Mojave desert tortoise is found in southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southeastern California and western Arizona. The Mojave desert tortoise species found in Utah is different than the Sonoran desert tortoise, which is found south and east of the Colorado River.

Mojave desert tortoises were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. As such, desert tortoises are protected under federal and state laws. In Utah, it is illegal to collect or remove desert tortoises from the wild. It is also illegal to release captive tortoises back into the wild or to transport them into Utah without the proper certifications.

“Desert tortoise populations are vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation because of their life history,” DWR Southern Region Outreach Manager Adam Kavalunas said. “They are long lived — with life span estimates of 50 to 80 years — but require 13 to 20 years until they reach reproductive maturity, and they have low reproductive rates. Once they do reproduce, their offspring have high mortality rates from predators.”

Desert tortoises can be found in grasslands, canyon bottoms and rocky hillsides. To regulate their body temperature and reduce water loss, desert tortoises spend a majority of their time in shelters such as soil burrows, caves, rock shelters and pallets. They are herbivores and their diet consists of perennial grasses, annual wildflowers, shrubs and cactuses.

Females typically lay eggs underground in late spring and early summer, with clutch sizes usually around a half-dozen eggs.  The young tortoises use a specialized egg tooth to remove themselves from the shell and then dig their way to the surface.  Because desert tortoises live in dry arid climates, they spend most of the daytime below ground and only emerge when temperatures are cooler or after significant rainfall.

Details for the event

The viewing event will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Chuckwalla Trail Head in Snow Canyon State Park. The trailhead is located on the west side of State Route 18 just north of Snow Canyon Parkway.

Biologists will be available to provide an up-close look at a live desert tortoise and to answer questions about the tortoise’s natural history, behavior and biology. Attendees will be given a parking pass in lieu of paying the Snow Canyon State Park entrance fee.

While the event is free, participants are encouraged to register in advance on Eventbrite.

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