Desert tortoise populations have declined up to 90% in recent decades due to human activities such as housing developments, energy development and grazing. They spend up to 95% of their time in burrows, where they may get trapped or succumb to heat if the burrow collapses due to a vehicle or large animal. They like sandy soil, and when visiting sand dunes people can cause these collapses.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages endangered species, and many desert tortoises are on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. A center was established by the BLM to care for desert tortoises, mainly surrendered pets.
In the last 2 days some many news reports have falsely implied that the BLM was euthanizing the protected wild tortoises. The misrepresentation of fact must be intentional, since the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center clarified the situation in a press release months ago.
Aug 26, 2013
Statement Regarding Media Reports on Status of Desert Tortoise at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Nevada
Recent media reports regarding the status of desert tortoises at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) have implied that the FWS is currently euthanizing desert tortoises at the facility. We want the public to know that the FWS is not euthanizing healthy tortoises.
The DTCC was established in 1990 to receive wild tortoises in harm’s way from development and has taken in unwanted pets since 1996. Over 1,000 tortoises arrived at the DTCC each year, and approximately 98 percent of those are surrendered or stray pets. Science-based protocols developed for desert tortoises brought to the DTCC have been instrumental in helping the FWS maintain a healthy population of desert tortoise in the wild. Managing to recover desert tortoise, a threatened species, is a complex task in which all options need to be considered, and all risks and benefits to the species must be assessed.
Many pet tortoises, unfortunately, are diseased or otherwise in poor health, and run the risk of spreading disease to wild tortoises. These tortoises cannot be relocated to the wild, or otherwise contribute to recovery of the desert tortoise population. Sometimes euthanasia of unhealthy pet tortoises is necessary, but only as last resort, and only after we evaluate other options. All healthy tortoises at the DTCC will be relocated to sites that will support the recovery of the species.
Progress is being made on translocating the healthy DTCC tortoise population to the wild. A Programmatic Environmental Assessment is complete, and tortoises are already being translocated by the FWS to an approved site in Trout Canyon, Nevada. Public scoping for a second translocation plan was completed Aug 22, 2013, for a proposed translocation area south of Coyote Springs, Nevada.
The Animal Foundation (TAF), Lied Animal Shelter continues to take in unwanted pet tortoises from the public. However, the fact remains that the DTCC does not currently have the capacity or the funding to accept and care for additional tortoises.
Recovery of the desert tortoise in the wild continues to be our top priority. However we are deeply concerned about the growing number of unwanted pets, and will continue to work with our partner agencies toward finding a suitable solution for tortoises that cannot be returned to the wild.
Posted on August 26, 2013
The factual misrepresentations are coming up in a story about a Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who reportedly owes $1.1M in grazing fees to the BLM, and who following decades of debate over the issue in federal court has been issued court orders starting in 1998 to pay the grazing fees or remove his cattle and to not interfere with removal operations if he fails to remove them himself. The matter has gained national attention in recent days as people have flocked to the ranch to side with Bundy's resistance to the court orders. Various political scapegoats are trotted out by media outlets with an agenda to promote, and many of the protesters onsite now resisting federal authorities are reveling in repeating the misinformation. The incident could turn into quite a sideshow in the coming days.
Fate of an endangered species… this California desert tortoise was more endangered than most