As unlikely as it was, and is, Northwest Tortoise ended up a sanctuary for Federally Protected Desert and Gopher tortoises. A surprising amount Desert tortoises are kept and bred illegally in Washington and Oregon.

A specialized species, they inhabit the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southeastern California, and northwestern Arizona. Living primarily in burrows it digs, the tortoise spends 95% of its life underground.

The Desert tortoise is an important element of the ecosystem it inhabits as a keystone species. The burrows create habitats for up to 300 other animals as well as seed dispersers. Without them, the habitat would collapse.

In captivity, the Desert and Gopher tortoise are susceptible to a range of ailments that other species of tortoise are not. One respiratory infection can infect an entire colony, causing mass casualties. Desert and Gopher tortoises in the care of Northwest Tortoise are housed away from other species of tortoises, away from each other and have a planted grazing area with native grasses, wildflowers, and cacti.

If you have a Desert or Gopher tortoise and need to rehome (with or without a permit) please fill this out and email to

Northwest Tortoise is permitted by the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service to possess Desert and Gopher tortoises. The permit DOES NOT allow breeding, selling, returning or rehoming without express permission from the Service.

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