US Fish & Wildlife Service



Date of this Version



Published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1-2, (1998)


Desert tortoises, also known as desert turtles or gopher tortoises, currently are found in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as parts of Mexico, and in the Mojave, Colorado, Sonoran and Sinaloan deserts. As the result of various human activities over the past 150 years, tortoises have been eliminated or reduced in large portions of their range in California and in areas near Las Vegas and St. George, Utah.

Desert tortoise population densities range from just a few per square mile to more than 200 per square mile. Although the number of desert tortoises in the world is unknown, biologists have used estimates of between 500,000 and 2 million.