Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of my top Frequently Asked Questions.

If you don't find your answer here send me a message
1Why do you stress research so much? Can’t I just do what you do? Can’t I just follow a care sheet for the next 50 years?
Owning and captive keeping of any turtle/tortoise is a challenge. These reptiles are exotic pets and require specialty care. Because they have not been domesticated very long there is very little long-term care experience and research available. For example, it was acceptable in the 60s to drill a hole in their shell and tether them with a rope or chain. We now know that mutilating the shell is both painful, harmful and an inhumane method of keeping a turtle/tortoise. Methods, equipment and knowledge are always changing. Keeping up on the research and continuing to learn will ensure the care you provide continues to evolve so that your turtle/tortoise will live a long, healthy life.
2Do you use supplements?
Northwest Tortoise (NWT) uses supplements. Along with a correct diet, supplements can be very beneficial. You are encouraged to research the supplements on the market and choose what you think is best for your turtle/tortoise. It’s recommended, no matter what species or age, to have a cuttlebone available for them to munch on.
3How can Northwest Tortoise be a rescue and breed tortoises?
NWT did not start out as a rescue (read the story of NWT About Northwest Tortoise) However, after experiencing the retail reptile industry first hand, it became very apparent that the need for a dedicated rescue in the Northwest was desperately needed. Unfortunately there are many non-ethical breeders and suppliers that are not concerned with anything but the bottom line. This method creates a carefree attitude about pets. Often the term ‘throw-away’ pet is used to describe a quick turnaround from investment to profit. Two species that are suffering because of the ‘throw-away’ pet mentality are the Sulcata and the Red-Eared Slider. Both of these species are over-crowding rescues (Read about it here).

NWT allows breeding very sparingly. In 2016, 7 turtle/tortoises were hatched. No species overcrowding rescues are bred or will ever be bred. When NWT decides to hatch eggs, the intention and future planning are to care for the hatchlings their entire lives, if necessary. If a qualified and dedicated hobbyist is approved to purchase, the turtle/tortoise will be sold and the proceeds go directly to funding NWT.

NWT does not supply retail stores, flippers or wholesalers.
4Should I get a tortoise?
That’s a tough question and the answer is different for each person. As usual, research the species out there. Think about the size you can accommodate now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now, etc. Think about where you’ll be in 10 years. Will you have a job where you travel all the time? Will someone be able to take care of the tortoise?

Deciding to get a tortoise should be a 50+ year planning exercise. If you truly want one, you’ll be able to see how it would fit into your life in future years and you will make it a priority to do so.
5Why don’t you breed Sulcatas?
Sulcatas are a fascinating and fun tortoise, but they are not for the average keeper. Their size, destructive digging and territorial behavior make them a difficult tortoise to keep over time. Almost all Sulcatas that arrive at NWT come with the same explanations for surrender: I had no idea they were so destructive. It’s destroying my yard. It keeps escaping. It knocks over everything and plows through everything.

If you choose to purchase a Sulcata, do A LOT of research. Know exactly what you are buying and understand the challenges you’ll have to accommodate as it gets bigger and sexually mature. Check out the Sulcata challenge links here and here to get you started. If you decide to purchase a Sulcata please consider adopting one from a rescue.
6Why should I buy from you verses a retail outlet?
NWT only deals with captive-bred tortoises. NWT does not import tortoises from the wild. Regardless of its legality, NWT believes it’s unethical for the pet trade to import tortoises from the wild. The Russian tortoise is a perfect example of the retail pet trade. The tortoise is taken from its natural environment (wild caught) and sent to the pet trade. Most tortoises captured in this method don’t survive more than two years. The exotic looking Pancake Tortoise is another example of mass wild-caught gathering and sending to the U.S. and other countries for the pet trade.
7If you are a non-profit, why are you soliciting for donations?
Somehow a myth exists that non-profits don’t need money to run. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Non-profits have to purchase everything they need to care for the animals they take in. While some retail places may give a price break to non-profits, rarely do any of them give their products or services away. Money is absolutely needed to keep a non-profit running. Income that is brought in from adoption fees or the occasional captive-bred sale goes directly back into the non-profit.
8Do you make any money?
No. I do not take a salary or any money from NWT. All monies earned are returned to the non-profit to continue operating.
9Will you help me find a home for my turtle/tortoise?
Helping someone find a home for their turtle/tortoise without taking ownership is essentially becoming a broker or middle person. NWT requires full surrender of the animal. Additionally, NWT will not refer non-vetted applicants to people wanting to rehome their turtle/tortoise. NWT takes rescue and rehoming very seriously and will not use either of these methods to pass turtles/tortoises from owner to owner. The goal is to rehome once and never again.
10Do you foster turtle/tortoises?
No. NWT requires full ownership surrender.
11Can I be a foster?
At this time NWT does not foster out turtles/tortoises. Currently, NWT is unable to spend the time required to interact find, vett and keep up with fosters is not available. This may change in the future.
12Do you negotiate on prices?
No. NWT believes living beings are not something to negotiate or barter like a car. The goal of bartering is to get more for your money. This doesn’t apply to living things. Living things are a life-long commitment, not a deal to be made. Additionally, the prices NWT charges are well below the market price.
13Does my tortoise need a buddy or friend? Isn’t he lonely?
No. No. No. And no. I cannot stress this enough. Turtles/tortoises do not need buddies or friends. They are solitary animals. They don’t want or need friends. In the wild they are nomadic and come together only to mate or vie for a mate.

“But my friend has x, y, and z together and they are fine.” I hear this all the time and my answer is always the same – just wait, problems will arise and they do. Recently I took in multiple tortoises being kept together for 20+ years and the bullying was rampant. The keeper did not recognize the subtle signs and the weaker tortoises suffered for it.

General guidelines:
Young turtles/tortoises will tolerate others fairly well.

Sexual maturity: Males kept with males will start fighting regardless if a female is around.

Females: Females kept with females tend to fight less than males but they will fight. Sometimes females will live in harmony for years then one decides she doesn’t like the other. After a period of separation there may be peace again. I have never seen a period of separation work for males.

Male/female: This is the worst-case scenario. Males will pursue females to detrimental ends. The female MUST have break from the male. She must be kept primarily away from the male.

Bullying behavior is very common in keeping groups together. Unfortunately most inexperienced keepers cannot recognize bullying behavior, and thus, don’t believe an experienced keeper when the behavior is noted.

It’s highly recommend if you decide to ignore the advice given here or the advice by the experts and choose to house multiple turtle/tortoises together that you have an exit plan. An exit plan is an additional pen ready and waiting when fighting or bullying starts.
14Do you vend at reptile shows?
Reptile shows are a double-edged sword. Northwest Tortoise does participate on occasion around the northwest. On one hand, NWT gets the message of correct care, responsible breeding and adoption out to many people. People can learn from the educational displays and information free of charge. NWT’s advice is always free and given with the goal of helping the owner properly take care of the turtle/tortoise

On the other hand, by being a vendor (and paying the fees) NWT is supporting the for-profit reptile industry. Many of the institutions NWT rallies against are in attendance making lots of money in unethical ways. Wholesalers and flippers are at every show. It’s devastating to see tortoise after tortoise sold to people without one word about care. I’ve personally witnessed this more times than I can count. Purposeful misinformation (to make the sale) is rampant as well. Over the years, I’ve heard people say a grossly pyramided tortoise is going through a ‘growth spurt.’ I’ve heard sellers tell people Sulcatas don’t get over ‘5 pounds.’ I’ve seen more tortoises have a death sentence served from transporting right out of the egg, displayed at the shows and sold to a person that has no idea the tortoise will soon be dead. I’ve received more contacts after shows (whether I’m there or not) asking for advice about a tortoise that was purchased is dying. It’s devastating to have to tell the new owner it’s death sentence was signed as soon as it was taken to a show. Hatchlings cannot withstand the stress of shows or transport.

NWT is used frequently as a dumping ground by vendors that sell a tortoise to a person and refer them to NWT for care guidelines. Thus allowing the vendor to sell more and NWT make up for their negligence. NWT experiences this at every show. This only perpetuates the cycle of rescue because the majority of the new owners had zero idea the amount of care the tortoise would need.

Additionally, by being the person advocating correct care and responsible ownership makes me very unpopular. I’m not a welcome vendor and it’s difficult to spend a day or days being the hated one. It is the opinion of NWT that it is unethical to:
  • Sell Sulcatas and water turtles that are overrunning rescues
  • No animal or reptile should be sold without an in-depth conversation about care
  • Sell to people under the age of 18 without parental permission
  • Transport and/or sell just-out-of-egg hatchlings
  • Sell to whomever hands over the money
All shows publish ‘only captive-bred animals are allowed for sale.’ This guideline is not enforced. Wild-caught and imported tortoises can be found at nearly every show.
15Does NWT Ship?
NWT will ship tortoises only when necessary to avoid possible health and safety risks to the tortoise. Shipping a tortoise is not something to be done lightly. Shipping is stressful and can be dangerous to the tortoise. NWT follows these guidelines:
  • NWT ships in the continental United States only
  • NWT WILL NOT ship during winter months – I will not use heat packs because they are inconsistent and don’t regulate a safe temperature at any time during use
  • Spring/Summer/Fall shipping depend on temperatures locally, in the shipping path and the recipients location
  • Shipping will only be done on Monday or Tuesday
  • The safety of the tortoise is paramount:
  • Shipping box: I use custom made boxes lined with Styrofoam on all sides, top and bottom
  • The tortoise will be in the box the least time as possible
  • The tortoise will be dropped off at the airport location 30 minutes prior to cut off. This enables the tort to go straight to the plane and not sit in an office or on a truck for hours.
  • The shipment will be guaranteed 10:30 a.m. delivery
  • The recipient will commit to being at the receiving address at 10:30 a.m. to ensure the tortoise is unpacked as quickly as possible Local transport: Within Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana NWT will not ship a tortoise. These places are close enough to warrant driven transport. Tortoise transports can be arranged. With patience and flexibility, it usually takes less than three weeks to arrange transport.
  • $20 will be added to the price of the adoption/sale to accommodate gas money for the driver (Drivers are not associated with NWT and are doing a favor. I used to ask recipients to provide the drivers with gas money but too many said they would and didn’t, forcing me to give money out of NWT funds.)
16Contacting NWT:
Using the contact buttons (email) throughout the website is the best way to contact NWT. I strive to answer every email within a few hours. Please do not send messages that state “call me.” I am a one-person operation and I do not have the time to drop everything and call. Please respect my time and be specific as possible in the message and I will do everything I can to help.
17Can I visit NWT?
NWT is not a public facility and visits are not allowed.
18Do you charge for information?
NWT never charges for information. If your question can be answered on the website, I will direct you to the proper page. If not, I’ll provide as much information as possible and possibly send you to other resources if I cannot answer sufficiently. Please note: I WILL NOT DO YOUR WORK FOR YOU. I will help guide you to reputable resources to enable learning on your part. I will not give you a list and say do this, do that. My goal is for you to read and process correct care information and apply it.