On Thursday, June 17, Wildlife Rescue came to the assistance of a baby tortoise that had been wounded. Upon inspection, she was found to have a very deep puncture wound in her carapace, with what appeared to be muscle tissue falling out of the wound. A local resident had called Wildlife Rescue after the tortoise was found in her yard. While the cause of the wound is unknown, it is possible the puncture was caused by a dog bite. The wound is severe, and at this time it appears she may not survive.
The desert tortoise is federally listed as a threatened species in the part of its geographic range occuring north and west of the Colorado River. This includes tortoises living in the deserts of California, Nevada and Utah, and the portion of the desert that occurs north of the Grand Canyon – Colorado River of Arizona.
In the Central Mojave Desert, these tortoises often make their homes on broad alluvial fans and washes in desert scrub habitats. They live in caves or burrows, most often found in desert washes. In California, the desert tortoise is the Official State Reptile.
Federal Law is quite specific regarding human interaction and tortoises. It prohibits the taking of these animals from their native habitat. For the Mojave population, “take” is defined under Federal law as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such activity.” Civil fines are up to $25,000, whereas criminal fines are up to $50,000, or one year in jail, or both.
The desert tortoise is threatened on all fronts: urban sprawl, military activities, off-road vehicles, railroads and highways, utility corridors, livestock grazing, exploration and development of mines, oil, gas, and geothermal resources, agricultural development, drought, wildfires, predation by ravens, attacks by domestic or feral dogs, disease, vandalism, and illegal collecting.
If you find a wounded tortoise, call immeditately for professional help to assist the animal. A list of numbers for local Fish and Wildlife Service are the best place to start. Many people find tortoises that have been wounded by vehicles, especially off-road vehicles driven by Homo sapiens with no thought of the irreparable harm they are wrecking upon plants, animals, and soils. A list of veterinarians that treat tortoises can be found here. Never release a sick or injured tortoise into the wild.
Check back in a few days for details on the wounded baby tortoise rescued by WildLife Rescue of Yucca Valley, California.