Vet Develops New Spaying Technique To Cut Population Of Unwanted Desert Tortoises

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 7:40am
Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 4:38pm
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
A young desert tortoise ready for adoption at the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center.

Arizona Game and Fish department is taking in more unwanted desert tortoises than it can keep, and is accepting applications to adopt out the critters.

A problem of too many captive tortoises led to a law passed last year making it illegal to breed them in Arizona.

Jay Johnson is the veterinarian for the tortoise adoption program. He developed a new, less invasive technique to spay and neuter tortoises, which he says could be one way Arizona can avoid the problems other western states, like Nevada, are having.

“It just increases and increases and increases," he said about the unwanted desert tortoises. "There’s a rescue facility in the Las Vegas area that has 500 to 1000 tortoises brought into them every year." 

He goes to Las Vegas to teach the technique which involves incisions near the back legs rather than cutting the shell. While he can't do the procedure to all of the 85 tortoises at the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center, he encourages pet owners to get the surgery if they might come in contact with other tortoises. 

“There really is just a ton of tortoises out there and really an overpopulation problem present that we’re trying to address, but in the meantime we have all these tortoises that need homes until we can reduce numbers in the future,” he said.

Applications to adopt tortoises must be submitted to TAP@azgfd.gov and approved before adoption day April 7.

Only adopters living in the species' native range like Kingman, Phoenix and Yuma will be accepted. 

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