Back to DTC home page ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT DESERT TORTOISES:
A GUIDE FOR PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH THE PUBLIC
Kristin H. Berry & Timothy Duck
CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 2
CHAPTER 3
CHAPTER 4
CHAPTER 5
CHAPTER 6
CHAPTER 7
APPENDIX 1
APPENDIX 2
APPENDIX 3

Why the Desert Tortoise is in Trouble

Tortoise populations have been declining in many areas for decades because of collecting, vandalism, loss of habitat, and disease. Government agencies have recognized the problems facing this species for many years. For example, in 1939, 1961, 1972, and 1973 the California Fish and Game Commission developed special laws to protect wild tortoises from collecting, harassment, and shooting. In June of 1989 the California Fish and Game Commission listed the tortoise as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act, 50 years after the first protective legislation.

Many people ask why desert tortoise populations have declined. There is no single or primary cause. The situation is highly complex and varies from site to site and region to region. In most cases, there are many causes for declines. The following is a general list of typical problems:

bulletillegal collecting
bulletwildfire
bulletvandalism
bulletdomestic and feral livestock grazing
bulletdisease
bulletrailroads, roads, highways, and freeways
bulletpersistent drought
bulletrecreation, including off-highway vehicles
bulletrelease of captive tortoises
bulletutility lines and corriders
bulletattacks by domestic or feral dogs
bulletmilitary activities
bulletpredation by ravens
bulletinvasions of alien plants
bulletagricultural development
bulleturban growth
bulletmineral exploration and development
bulletlandfills and illegal dumps
bulletexploration and development of geothermal, oil, and gas resources

CHAPTER 2