Lookout for Desert Tortoises

  • Published
  • By 412th Civil Engineer Group
  • 412th Test Wing

The Desert Tortoise is one of the many animals found on Edwards AFB.  Listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, Desert Tortoises are protected from unwarranted harassment or injury. The 412th Civil Engineer Group’s Environmental Management Division would like to remind base residents to be on the lookout for Desert Tortoises, especially near or crossing roadways.

“Desert Tortoises are particularly active during the March – May timeframes and again during the September – October timeframes. However, Desert Tortoises can be active at any time throughout the year, especially during and after rainfall,” said Larry Zimmerman, Environmental Management, Natural Resource Manager.

Tortoise signs have been placed in various locations throughout the installation over the years due to reoccurring Desert Tortoise sightings along roads, near buildings and under parked cars where Desert Tortoises seek shelter from the elements. People working or living on Edwards AFB are encouraged to check under and around vehicles prior to moving their vehicles, especially if parked near open desert, according to Zimmerman. 

If a Desert Tortoise is seen and not in immediate danger, people are advised not to touch the animal and monitor the animal until it reaches safety. Environmental Management should be contacted immediately if a tortoise is seen, whether in danger or not. Only authorized and trained people are allowed to touch a Desert Tortoise in non-emergency situations. Unauthorized handling could result in a $50,000 fine and jail time. 

If a motorist encounters a Desert Tortoise in immediate danger on or near the road, they can pick up the Desert Tortoise and move it off the road, according to Environmental Management. Slowly approach the Desert Tortoise from its front, pick it up by its sides, keep it level, and place the tortoise pointed in the same direction it was heading at least 100 feet off the road in a shady place. After moving a Desert Tortoise, call the Environmental Management office so a trained biologist can make sure the animal is okay.

Anyone who encounters a Desert Tortoise in distress should call Environmental Management at 661-277-1401.