Tortoises can not swim! – Sonoran desert tortoise – adopting a tortoise as a pet

arizona turtle tortoise

Where do Desert Turtles / Tortoises live?  The Desert Tortoise  lives in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California, southern Nevada, south Tucson, Arizona into Mexico.  The Desert tortoise is more active in summer and seeks shade under large rocks and boulders.

tortoise can go over a year without drinking water. One of its defense mechanisms when picked up or disturbed is to release the contents of its bladder, which can deplete its water supply and can cause harm or death for the tortoise during a drought. Is it ok to pick up a tortoise?  NO.  The tortoise releases its bladder, (water storage).  DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISES.  Exception, if it is going to be hit by a car…

arizona turtle tortoise
Arizona Desert Tortoise

The Desert Tortoise is an herbivore that will reach 9 to 15 inches in upper shell length (carapace).   A carapace is a dorsal (upper) section of the shell or exoskeleton.  In turtles and tortoises, the belly or underside is called the plastron.

The Tortoise shell is used as protection against predators.  In certain species there is a hinge between the abdominal and pectoral scutes allowing the turtle to almost completely enclose itself.

Desert Tortoises like to eat Creosote bush, burrobush, mojave yucca and blackbrush.

desert tortoise
a neighborhood desert tortoise

In this picture above is one of the 3 desert tortoises that live by our home in southern Arizona, outside of Tucson.  Our tortoise buddy must have been in a battle with a predator and lost its right foot.  This Tortoise is still going strong and I look for him every summer.  I call him “Stumpy”.

Desert Tortoise
Arizona Desert Tortoise / Turtle – protected

Breeding captive tortoises is discouraged because of the number of young tortoises already available for adoption. Occasionally, an adult female tortoise may lay eggs in a backyard that results in tortoise hatchlings.   It is important that Tortoise hatchlings, babies are kept outside, so that their shell and bone development can benefit from sunlight.

Do tortoises swim?  NO, tortoises do not have web feet and cannot swim!

tucson tortoise turtle
Stumpy the tortoise eating

A desert Tortoise can live up to a 100 years old.

Arizona Game and Fish Department’s TURTLE PROJECT works to manage and conserve all six species of turtles/tortoises.  See the link below.

They receive hundreds of young and adult Tortoises that have been displaced due to construction or raised in captivity.  The TURTLE PROJECT has Tortoises available for adoption.


Author: tjsgarden

We are a family that loves the Arizona Desert. A lot of research and team efforts go into our articles and photos. Come discover the beauty and mystery with us. Don't forget your sunscreen!

7 thoughts on “Tortoises can not swim! – Sonoran desert tortoise – adopting a tortoise as a pet”

  1. My gran had a tortoise when i was a kid (not one of these) but I remember it quite fondly though as a pet I thought it disappointing but i was only little and it wouldnt play fetch


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