What to do if you find a turtle
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 Department’s 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 in the wild that does not appear to be injured, please leave it alone and enjoy the encounter – and remember that it is illegal to remove a desert tortoise from the wild.
If you have found a desert tortoise that appears unhealthy, lost, or injured, take pictures of the top of the shell, and front and back of the tortoise and email them to TAP@azgfd.gov or sent via text message to 480-694-8395. Please include your name and a phone number where you can be reached.
The Tortoise Adoption Program can be reached at 844 896-5730 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, shredded paper, or blankets. Keep the tortoise away from pets or children. Because the tortoise may be dehydrated or hungry, soak the tortoise in a container filled with about a half-inch of water. Tortoises cannot swim so be sure the water does not go over the tortoise’s head. The tortoise can be fed any of the foods from this list.
Captive Tortoise Diet
The Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert’s Tortoise Adoption Program will only accept native Sonoran desert tortoises. Please contact a wildlife rescue facility if you find an African spurred tortoise (Sulcata), red-eared slider, or any other non-native turtles/tortoise.