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  • Tucson Mountain District Roads Closed Due to Flash Flooding

    Several interior roads, including the scenic loop, are closed in Tucson Mountain District (west) due to severe storms and flash flooding on August 26th. Roads will remain closed until further notice. Check the park's facebook page for updated information More »

Desert Tortoise

desert tortoise

Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)

The desert tortoise is a long-lived, slow growing tortoise and is estimated to live from 50 to possibly 100 years! They are common, yet often unseen at Saguaro National Park. The majority of their long lives is spent in burrows where they escape the cold winter temperatures and extreme summer heat.

Desert tortoises are well adapted to arid conditions and conserve water in several ways. They have thick skin to prevent water loss, and they excrete dry uric acid instead of urine. Also, tortoises can store water in their large urinary bladders. This stored water can be used in self defense if necessary. It is apparantly distasteful to predators, and when frightened, the tortoise may suddenly empty its bladder. However, this defense can be costly in times of drought, and the tortoise could die of dehydration if it can not replace the fluids. For more information about desert tortoises at Saguaro National Park, including tortoise research go to www.nps.gov/research/deserttortoise.htm

Shell length: 8 - 15 in (20.3 - 38.1 cm)

Diet: Grasses, leafy plants, cactus fruit

Did You Know?

Snow on the spines of a Saguaro Cactus

Even though the Sonoran Desert is known as very hot and dry place, snow sometimes falls and accumulates on the desert floor of Saguaro National Park. When it does it turns the desert into a winter wonderland. More...