May 6, 2024

PHOENIX — This is the time of year when Arizona’s trails and backroads can seem more like busy city streets.

While the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) supports all forms of safe, responsible outdoor recreation, those who operate a variety of motorized vehicles are being urged to pump the brakes and give a much slower “traveler” the right of way.

A protected species, desert tortoises are traversing the same trails and backroads — but, in typical desert tortoise fashion, they do it in low gear.    

AZGFD’s Chad Rubke, turtles project coordinator, said desert tortoises have it rough. In addition to drought, wildfires, and the invasion of exotic plant and wildlife species, desert tortoises can face a high mortality rate from motorized vehicles. 

“We’re hoping to raise awareness with all users and encourage them to be extra vigilant while recreating this spring,” Rubke said. “Desert tortoises are well-camouflaged, which makes them difficult to spot until it’s too late.”

A few tips:

When encountering a desert tortoise:

Subscribe to our Newsletter