Desert and Gopher Tortoises:

Northwest Tortoise is now a sanctuary for Federally Protected Gopher tortoises. A surprising amount Gopher tortoises are kept and bred illegally in Washington and Oregon.

Gopher tortoises 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 of the Gopher tortoise create habitats for up to 300 other animals as well as seed dispersers. Without these tortoises, the desert habitat would collapse.

In captivity, the Gopher tortoise is susceptible to a range of ailments that other species of tortoise are not. One respiratory infection can infect an entire colony, causing mass casualties. 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 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 Gopher tortoises. The permit DOES NOT allow breeding, selling, returning or rehoming without express permission from the Service.

Support the Deserts and Gophers!

Boy George:

Boy George arrived in April of 2021. Details are sketchy, he was found where no Desert tortoise should ever be. Covered in paint and glitter, he reminded me of Boy George from the 1980’s. Thus the name. Painting a tortoise’s shell clog pores and causes permanent damage. Shells should NEVER be painted.

Support Boy George

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Mr. The Kid:

Mr. The Kid arrived in August 2019 from an illegal breeding operation. He’s got lots of ego and chips on his shoulder. He’s named after the famous Billy the Kid for his youthful ego!

I believe with his past human contact, he’ll become a great education tortoise.

Support Mr. The Kid

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Papa arrived in January of 2021 after being transferred out of his home state. Papa HATES being in a pen. If there is a way to get out, he’ll find it. He gets lots of time free roaming!

Support Papa


Rufus is the first Gopher tortoise that NWT took in. He arrived in August 2019. Clearly poached from the wild and transported into north central Washington State. He was found where no Gopher tortoise should ever be. Had he not been rescued, he would not have survived the winter. Between 80-100 years old, he’s a testament to the resiliency of tortoises.

Support Rufus

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Lola, named after the Kinks’ song Lola, arrived May 2021. Lola was raised in a loving family that knew she needed better care. Lola is very social, loves people and makes a great education tortoise.

Support Lola


Minty arrived in September 2019. She came from a background that was almost too unreal to believe. MBD positive. She’s very human centric and makes a great education tortoise.

A year ago, her spine fractured. Not from any specific event, but from the MBD. MBD wreaks havoc on the body. The building blocks to create strong bones, muscles, tendons and organs are not there and over time, as she grows, the body cannot take the weight and “collapses.” This is how Minty’s back fractured.

Minty has been in the news recently getting a “skateboard” to help her around. Read about it here

and here.

Support Minty

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