Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Give Desert Tortoises Right Of Way

Protected species vulnerable to popular recreation activities .

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 -

Stay on established trails and backroads. Venturing off the beaten path can harm desert tortoise habitat, or the reptiles themselves.

Slow down, scan ahead. Desert tortoises blend into their surroundings remarkably well. They can be especially difficult to spot in rolling terrain and in dusty conditions when visibility is reduced.

Check under vehicles. Desert tortoises seeking shade sometimes rest under parked vehicles.

When Encountering A Desert Tortoise -

Keep them wild. It's important for their survival to remain in their natural habitat. If a potentially injured desert tortoise has been observed, or even a healthy one found in a populated area, call AZGFD's Desert Tortoise Adoption program at 844-896-5730 so the best decision can be made for that animal. It's illegal and detrimental to desert tortoise populations to collect them from the wild.

Observe from a distance. Desert tortoises are best viewed without disturbance. Keep pets and children away to avoid stressing the reptile.

Report the observation. AZGFD biologists would like to know where and when a desert tortoise has been encountered in the wild. Email details to turtlesproject@azgfd.gov. A photo also can be sent, as long as the desert tortoise wasn't touched in the taking of the photo.

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