Desert tortoises are completely terrestrial. They live in burrows up to 30 feet long which allows them to escape the desert heat during the day. They emerge from their burrows during the cooler parts of the day, especially in the spring when more plants are available to eat. They locate their burrows where there is enough ground moisture for eggs to survive and where they can find grass, cactus, or other low growth for food. They spend up to 95% of their lives living in their burrows.
Background: Tortoise tracks at Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve. This tortoise was moving to the left, as shown by the mounds of sand at the back of each track.
RETURN TO THE DESERT TORTOISE PHOTO
These animals live in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Adult tortoises may survive a year without access to water. Never pick up a desert tortoise. If they are frightened they may lose water stored in their bodies then die.