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Guided tours offered daily!

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Our Mission: Saving Wildlife

Desert Tortoise


Gopherus agassizii

  • Classification: Reptile
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 80-100+
  • Lifespan in the Wild: 50-80yrs
  • Length: 10-14in
  • Weight: 8-15lbs
  • Range: Mojave and Sonoran Deserts
  • Habitat: scrub desert
    • Diet in the Wild: grasses, herbs, flowers, cactus pads, fruit
    • Diet at Wildlife Images: veggies, fruit

Tortoises cannot swim like turtles can, in fact they would sink and drown if they attempted to enter the water. They are terrestrial creatures. Their shell is made of thick keratin and the tortoise’s body is attached to the inside of the shell. Their shells grow similar to a tree with concentric rings. The dark rings in the shell indicate periods of much growth and we can estimate the years that a tortoise has been alive and growing with these rings. The desert tortoise spends 95% of its life underground – not surprising, considering surface temperatures in its natural habitat can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit! It can survive a year or more without drinking, as most of its water intake comes from food. When threatened, it will sometimes empty its bladder, rendering it vulnerable to dehydration, so don’t disturb one in the wild unless it’s in immediate danger (e.g., crossing a road). Hatchling mortality is high, but individuals who make it to maturity can expect to live 50 years or much more.

Desert tortoises are an endangered species for many reasons. Most of this is due to habitat loss with more people moving into the desert (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and other growing cities) and destroying the open habitat that tortoises need to live and breed. Many of the remaining tortoises are being run over or predated on new predators that are attracted by the trash growth in the tortoise’s natural area. The exotic pet trade has also made an impact on their wild population.

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11845 Lower River Rd., Grants Pass, OR 97526
P.O. Box 36, Merlin OR 97532

Please make a reservation for your tour as you must be accompanied by a tour guide to visit!

  • Hours: 9AM - 5PM
  • Guided Tours: Every hour on the hour
  • Adults $14 | Seniors $12
  • Children (ages 4-13) $7
  • Children ages 3 and under by donation

Our Mission: Saving Wildlife

In this pursuit we aim to:

  • Involve people to share in our mission.
  • Educate people about the personal benefits of taking care of wildlife and the environment entrusted to our care.
  • Inspire people to make positive changes improving the world for wildlife.

We Need Your Help

With over 80 animal ambassadors, and over 1,000 sick injured and orphaned animals brought to our center each year - every dollar counts. We rely solely on people like yourself to support the work we do.

We receive no State or Federal funding and depend entirely on private funds to carry out our Mission.