What to do if you find a tortoise
The Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert Tortoise Adoption Program will only take in native Sonoran desert tortoises. Those with an African spur thigh tortoise (Sulcata), red-eared slider (pond slider) or any other non-native turtles/tortoises should contact a wildlife rescue facility.
Identifying a tortoise
To identify the tortoise or turtle, please refer to the turtle ID chart. One of the more common pet tortoises in Arizona is the African spur thigh tortoise (sulcata). They look similar to desert tortoises, but can be larger size (more than 15 pounds) and have enlarged scales or what appear to be “spurs” on the back legs.
If you encounter a desert tortoise that does not appear to be injured leave it alone. Remember, it is illegal to remove a desert tortoise from the wild.
If you have found a desert tortoise that is healthy, lost or injured, if possible, take pictures of the animal’s top, front and back and call 844-896-5730. The photos can be e-mailed to TAP@azgfd.gov or sent via text message to 480-694-8395. Please include a phone number where you can be reached.
The Tortoise Adoption Program can be reached between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Those sending pictures outside normal hours should follow the guidelines below to care for the tortoises until you can be contacted:
- Keep the tortoise in a box or plastic tote with some hay, straw or shredded paper.
- Normally, found tortoises may be dehydrated or hungry. Soak the tortoise in container filled with about a half-inch of water. Tortoises cannot swim so be sure the water doesn’t go over the tortoises head. The tortoise can be fed any of the foods from this list.
- Keep the tortoise away from pets or children.