Desert tortoise population in Las Vegas, coming out of its shell

Desert tortoise population in Las Vegas, coming out of its shell
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 8:22 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - They are a protected under the federal government’s Endangered Species Act.

The Desert Tortoise population is making a gradual comeback after it’s population dropped by as much s 90% back in 1980.

One of the ways The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track the population is by radio tracking.

It’s the same system that is used at the Springs Preserve where Mojave Max and three other tortoises live on a 15 acre spread.

“We use tracking equipment,” said Katrina Smith the Preserve’s chief Zoologist. Even with the transmitter the tortoises can be hard to spot because they blend in with the brush in the habitat that grows wild.

With a receiver and an antenna, Smith goes into the desert habitat once a week to check on the reptiles. Smith’s job is to maintain the health of the tortoises so it’s important for her to see them weekly.

It can be a challenge as Desert Tortoises spend 90 percent of their time in their burrows.

With the tracking equipment it makes it easier to find the tortoises, because seeing them is not easy.

“Sometimes I could be walking for a couple of minutes,” said Smith.

The tracking device glued onto the shell of the tortoise lasts up to two years.

If you find a desert tortoise in the wild you should never handle it. It is illegal to collect tortoise in the wild.