FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

The Mojave population of desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) includes all tortoises north and west of the Colorado River in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. Listed as threatened in 1990, these tortoises are impacted by ongoing threats, including loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat due to development. They are also impacted by increased wildfire due to non-native invasive vegetation, disease, road mortality and predation of their eggs and hatchlings. 

Scientific Name

Gopherus agassizii
Common Name
Mojave Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
Agassiz's Desert Tortoise
Mohave Desert Tortoise
FWS Category
Reptiles
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics
Behavior

The desert tortoise hibernates in burrows for up to nine months each year, and is most active from March to June and September to October.

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Mojave population of desert tortoise lives in a variety of habitats from sandy flats to rocky foothills, including alluvial fans, washes and canyons.

Desert

Arid land with usually sparse vegetation.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Color & Pattern

The desert tortoise has a top shell is brown, gray or black, and the shell underneath is lighter.

Sound

The desert tortoise produces a variety of sounds - hisses, grunts, pops, whoops, huhs, echs, bips, etc.

Size & Shape

The desert tortoise has a short tail, flattened front legs that are adapted for digging, elephant-like hind legs and a high-domed shell. 

MeasurementsShell height: 4 to 6 inchesShell length: 8 to 15 inches

Weight

Adult tortoises weigh eight to 15 pounds.

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Lifespan

Desert tortoises can live roughly 50 to 80 years, but take 13 to 20 years to reach sexual maturity.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

The desert tortoise eat various herbs, grasses, cacti and wildflowers.

Geography

Launch Interactive Map

Timeline

Explore the information available for this taxon's timeline. You can select an event on the timeline to view more information, or cycle through the content available in the carousel below.

42 Items