California Desert Tortoise permits...
Your California Desert Tortoise requires a Permit! Desert Tortoises may be legally possessed in California only under the authority of a permit issued by the California Department of Fish and Game. The department may issue a permit for the possession of a desert tortoise provided the tortoise was legally acquired.
To request a DESERT TORTOISE PERMIT APPLICATION form, contact the Society or email, call or write the California Department of Fish and Game:
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME
License and Revenue Branch
3211 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
Telephone: (916) 928-5845
Please note, San Diego Turtle & Tortoise Society has a collection of these permit applications available at our monthly meetings and at our annual July show. Fish and Game will send you a numbered tag to affix to your tortoise. The tag can be placed at the rear end of the animal on the carapace or plastron, or on the inside of the shell behind one of the back legs. Unfortunately the tags can wear out within a few years. Because there is less wear and tear, placing the tag on the inside of the shell seems to work best. However, this site may not be accessible in small tortoises. SDTTS Care Coordinators can help you with your tagging decisions.
The law requires that the tag be attached to the tortoise that it was issued for at all times. Some owners wait until the animals are 2-3 years old before registering them. Owners must use their judgment as to best time and place to put the tag. Remember, a healthy juvenile tortoise will put on significant growth each year. Because growth occurs at the edges of the scutes, a tag that overlaps the edge of a scute may loosen and fall off. If a tag becomes lost or wears out, contact SDTTS and fill out a permit application form if needed. Be sure to state on the form that this is a request for a replacement tag and provide the number of the old tag. We recommend obtaining more than one permit per tortoise, as they can get damaged or lost as the tortoise goes about his adventures. This way you have on file a record of the tortoises by number range. Also, if you adopt additional desert tortoises, you can give them a tag in the same number range.
Reasons for obtaining a permit: There are several good reasons for obtaining a permit and tagging your tortoise. First, it is against the law to keep a desert tortoise without having a permit, and the permit tag must be fixed to the tortoise. On several occasions California Department of Fish and Game Officers have confiscated tortoises that have been kept without permits or lacking tags. Second, the permit offers a simple way to establish legal proof of ownership should the animal wander away from its home and get turned into an Animal Control or Humane Society facility. Animal Control and Humane Societies may not turn over desert tortoises without proof of ownership, and there have been several instances of tortoise owners being unable to reclaim their pets. Additionally, a found tortoises owner can be traced from the tag number.
Important legal details...
- Breeding of captive tortoises is not authorized. If the gender of the
tortoise is unknown and you have more than one, you should keep them
separated to prevent breeding.
- It is illegal to take tortoises from the wild. The penalty for doing so can be up to $5,000 and one year in jail.
- No tortoise that has been in possession shall be released into the wild.
Click here for detailed California Desert Tortoise care instructions.
More about the Fish & Game tortoise program...
The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has a long history of protecting desert tortoises. State laws have prohibited the purchase or sale of the species since 1939; shooting or harming tortoises has been against the law since 1961. In the last decade, wardens have successfully prosecuted cases involving illegal take, possession and transport of tortoises under the California Endangered Species Act and Fish and Game Codes. Special legislation allows possession of captive tortoises by permit under certain circumstances (see above).
The CDFG implements the permit process for captive tortoises and oversees the Adoption Program. The CDFG provides funding for studies and research on the tortoise through the Endangered Species Tax Check-off Program and other special funding sources. For example, during the last 13 years CDFG transferred funds to experts in the Bureau of Land Management for research on upper respiratory tract disease, raven predation, growth rates in tortoise populations, and differences in shell shape between populations. In 2001, the CDFG transferred funds to the U.S. Geological Survey for research on population status and trends.
Working with the Nature Conservancy and the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, CDFG recently acquired substantial acreage within the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area. The agency also established the West Mojave Ecological Reserve and Fremont Valley Ecological Reserve outside the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area. Under provisions in the California Environmental Quality Act and the Fish and Game Code, CDFG can issue management agreements for development or construction in tortoise habitat. Effects of the developments on tortoises are often offset through land acquisition, construction of protective fences, and other actions that can minimize threats to tortoises and their habitats. CDFG works closely with federal, county, and other state agencies to conserve, protect, and help recover desert tortoise populations. Individuals and companies wishing to undertake development or construction projects on public or private lands that may effect tortoise habitat should contact the California Department of Fish and Game at (661) 285-5867.