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Help Celebrate One of America’s Most Unique Animals During Desert Tortoise Week

National parks, government agencies and conservation groups are spending this week celebrating the desert tortoise. There’s a long list of events to check out and ways to help raise awareness of the threatened species that call the desert home.

Wildlife officials listed the animal as threatened in 1990, but even before then, it was rare to see a desert tortoise. The animal spends up to nine months a year hibernating underground, living in the Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California deserts. Recent habitat loss due to development, wildfires and other issues have caused the population to decline, but there are efforts to revitalize the desert tortoise.

To help bring awareness of the animal, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is sharing a list of ways to participate at places like Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave Desert National Monument.

Most of the events are in person.

Desert Tortoise Week Events

Tortoise Table

Oct. 1 – Oct. 7, 10 am – 2 pm (PDT)

Details: Drop in between 10 am and 2 pm to join Park staff for information, presentations, and tortoise-themed activities, including the famous “Wheel of Tortoise.”

Contact: Joshua Tree National Park, [email protected], 760-367-5500

Location: Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center, 6533 Freedom Way, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Citizen/Community Science and Wildlife Identification Night

Oct. 3, 5 pm – 7 pm (PDT)

Details: Learn to identify native wildlife, including desert tortoises, snakes, and invertebrates, and share your observations with recovery biologists and researchers.

Contact: Bryan Stevens, [email protected]

Location: Snow Math and Science Building Room 207, Utah Tech University, St. George, UT 84770

See Live Tortoises on Visitor Center Day

Oct. 4, 7 am – 4 pm (PDT)

Details: Come see live tortoises at the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve/Greater Zion visitor center. Learn about the incredible natural history and wildlife of Southern Utah, and join in a story time and craft activity focused on the desert tortoise.

Contact: Ammon Teare, [email protected], 435-301-7435

Location: 111 E. Tabernacle St., St. George, Utah 84770

Help Restore Habitat and Protect Tortoise Homes

Oct. 5, 8 am – 10 am (PDT)

Details: Join professional biologists and recreation managers in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in conducting trail maintenance, habitat restoration, and clean-up in prime tortoise habitat. Please bring gloves, water, and sun protection and make sure to dress comfortably based on weather reports.

Contact: Ammon Teare, [email protected], 435-301-7435

Location: Call 435-301-7435 for details.

desert tortoise week
A sign in Nevada, asking drivers to lookout for desert tortoises. (Source: Getty Images)

Tortoise Evening Program and Ranger Talk

Oct. 5 and Oct. 7, each night at 7 pm (PDT)

Details: Join Park staff for a 45-minute presentation about tortoises.

Contact: Joshua Tree National Park, [email protected], 760-367-5500

Location: Joshua Tree National Park, Indian Cove Campground Amphitheater (located near campsite 40), Twentynine Palms, CA

Guided Hike to Explore Desert Tortoise Territory

Oct. 6, 8 am – 9 am (PDT)

Details: Join a guided hike led by Snow Canyon State Park and Red Cliffs Desert Reserve staff to learn about life as a desert tortoise. Limited group sizes.

Contact: Registration is required; call 435-628-2255 two days preceding the event to register.

Location: To limit disturbance in tortoise habitat, location details will be available after RSVP.

Tortoise Conservation in the Field

Oct. 6, 9 am (PDT)

Details: Learn about desert tortoise conservation work being completed by Transition Habitat

Conservancy and Hardshell Labs. Get trained to identify signs of desert tortoises and help collect (hands-off) data on live individuals and their habitats.

Contact: [email protected]

Location: Email [email protected] for details.

For more information, visit the Transition Habitat Conservancy website at transitionhabitat.org

Desert Tortoise Shell-abration

Oct. 6, 10 am – 11 am (PDT)

Details: See live desert tortoises, enjoy games and educational material, and walk the ¼ mile-paved Tortoise Trail with interpretive signs and larger-than-life tortoise statue. No registration required.

Contact: Phenix Johnson, [email protected], 435-628-2255

Location: Upper Galoot picnic area, Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, UT 84770

Tortoise Talk and Walk

Oct. 7, 9 am – 11 am (PDT)

Details: Hike the 1-mile Randall Henderson trail while searching for tortoises and visit the desert tortoise ambassador at his enclosure.

Contact: (760) 862-9984

Location: Randall Henderson trailhead at Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Visitor Center, 51-500 Highway 74, Palm Desert, CA 92260

Space is limited; sign up at desertmountains.org

Native Plant Restoration

Oct. 7, Oct. 21, Oct. 28, and Nov. 4 – each date from 9 am to 1 pm (PDT)

Details: Help plant perennials to restore native plants following a wildfire.

Contact: Matt Flores, [email protected], 702-290-5265

Location: Mormon Mountains or Southern Nevada along Carp Elgin Road, NV

Sign up at: nevada.volunteers.kalkomey.com/events/7224

For more information on the events, go to: bit.ly/23planting

Celebrating Tortoises

Join events the first week of October on days the Monument Visitor Center is open: Thursday – Monday, 8:30 am – 4 pm (PDT)

Details: Check out educational tortoise displays and tortoise-themed activities for kids, and visit the resident desert tortoise ambassador that lives on site.

Contact: (760) 862-9984

Location: Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Visitor Center, 51-500 Highway 74, Palm Desert, CA 92260

Desert Tortoise Week Educational Programs and Events

Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, Rosewood Nature Study Area, and Peavine Pete will have several desert tortoise-focused education events scheduled throughout the first week of October, including a week-long social media video series and a native planting event at Rosewood NSA on Oct. 7, 9 am – 12 pm.

Contact: [email protected]

Location: Rosewood Nature Study Area, 6800 Pembroke Dr., Reno, NV 89502

Find more information and a list of events at: tmparksfoundation.org/tortoise

Celebrate Public Lands

Oct. 14, 9 am – 3 pm (PDT)

Details: Help support the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area by repairing fences and signs, removing trash, and maintaining trails and the kiosk while enjoying the conserved lands.

Contact: Email your interest to [email protected] or call the preserve manager at (442) 294-4258.

Location: Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area, California City, CA 93505

For more information, visit the DTRNA website: tortoise-tracks.org

Revving Responsibility: Protecting the tortoise while off-roading

Oct. 27, 6 pm to 7 pm (PDT)

Details: Join an educational talk about the intersection between Off-Highway Vehicle recreation and desert tortoise conservation.

Contact: Mary Cook-Rhyne, [email protected]

Location: Mojave Desert Land Trust, 60124 Twentynine Palms Highway in Joshua Tree, CA

Sign up at www.eventbrite.com/e/revving-responsibly-protecting-tortoises-while-off…

Can’t Make it to an event? Learn more about the desert tortoise here.

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