Species Survival Plan
Dry scrub and grasslands
Fox, bobcat, coyote and eagle
Grasses, weeds, flowers, prickly pear cactus and occasional grubs
Originally Native To
Southern Texas down through northeastern Mexico
6 - 8 inches
Male 7 - 9 lb.
Female 5 - 7 lb.
Rather small with yellowish-orange plates on its shell and small spurs on its legs
Up to 7 eggs
April - September
Captivity 50 - 60 years
Fairly solitary, males will fight when they come into contact; hibernate in winter
About Texas Tortoise
The Texas tortoise is the smallest of four species of gopher tortoises found in the United States and the smallest tortoise species in the U.S. overall. Unlike other species of gopher tortoises, the Texas tortoise is not an adept burrower.
They range from south-central Texas into northeastern Mexico. Fossils of these tortoises have been found in Texas that date back to 10 million B.C.
The Texas tortoise is one of the few tortoise species endemic to North America. As a North American tortoise, the Texas tortoise is well-adapted to living outdoors in places with a dry temperate climate. There are 30 recognized species of turtles in Texas, but the only native tortoise in the state is the Texas tortoise.
The Texas tortoise has yellowish-orange, "horned" scutes (plates) on its shell and cylindrical, columnar hind legs like those of an elephant.
These very docile creatures are primarily vegetarian, although captive specimens have been known to eat meat. They feed heavily on the fruit of the common prickly pear and other mostly succulent plants available to them. They use their claws to scrape out shady resting places called "pallets" beneath bushes or cacti.
Texas tortoises are classified as a threatened species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. They have been on the list since 1977, as a low reproductive rate, historic heavy exploitation by pet suppliers, and other factors have led to a severe population decline of the species. There is a $10,000 fine if a person is found in possession of a Texas tortoise.
If you come across a Texas tortoise in the wild, make sure you never pick it up. Handling a wild tortoise is neither safe for you nor the tortoise.
This can stress out the tortoise and cause it to expel all the contents of its bladder as a last-resort defense mechanism. Doing this results in the loss of its water reserves and can cause the tortoise to slowly die of dehydration. In addition, all reptiles carry the bacteria Salmonella, which has no effect on them, but can make people very sick.
At Fossil Rim, Texas tortoises live at the Children's Animal Center.
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