The Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) has lived in the Mojave for millions of years. They have evolved to survive in the harsh deserts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. These gentle creatures thrive in habitats where suitable soil for their dens are found, such as washes, canyons, sandy flats, and rocky alluvial fans. They spend 95% of their lives underground. Their diet consists mainly of wildflowers, grasses, and cacti. Tortoises can live 50 years or more in the wild, and much longer in captivity.
They reach reproduction age between 12- 20 years old. They mate in the spring, and lay 1 to 14 eggs in their underground dens. Females may store sperm for 5 years or more, and may not lay any eggs during years with low rainfall. The eggs hatch 90 to 180 days later, and small 2 inch tortoises emerge to the harsh life of the Mojave desert. Very few hatchlings survive to adulthood. Coyotes, Kit Fox, and raptors are a few of their natural predators.
Adult tortoises will grow to be 12 to 15 inches or more. Male and female tortoises are nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye until they are 15 to 20 years old. Due to habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, slow reproduction, and low survival rates the Desert Tortoise is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act with threatened status.