Let me tell you a little bit more about “our” tortoises. They came to us during a sad year in our lives. We had lost a person who was very special to us and a dog who was very special to us. Life goes on as it must but all four of us were struggling a bit.
WB called to ask me about a new pet. We had very busy lives and had dealt with so much loss. The last thing I wanted was to take on a new pet. I didn’t have time to deal with a puppy at that time. In my mind, a new pet could only mean a dog. M was not too sure about it either. After I told WB “no” in every way possible, he went on to explain that this would be the most carefree of pets. And they were.
Desert tortoises are protected. It is unlawful to touch, harm, harass or collect wild desert tortoises. It is also illegal to introduce tortoises that have been kept back into the desert because of worries of infection. Our tortoises came from a man who had gotten them from a neighbor twenty years before. When he moved, he gave his tortoises to WB’s friend, Bill. Bill then went on to find homes for any offspring he might find. We have had our three for 17 years.
We have Tillie, named by K. We have Norm (who we found out years later was actually a Norma). She was the biggest one and named after the character from Cheers. Our third one is T.R. T.R. was my father’s tortoise, named after Teddy Roosevelt. T.R. came to live with us after my parents got another dog. The first few years, we kept them in an enclosed area with some shade. We had grass in the area and they ate the scraps of our nightly salads. During wildflower season, we brought them wildflowers. During prickly pear fruit season, we brought them prickly pears.
Now they just wander around our property. In late summer, I still bring them prickly pear fruit. As they dig into the fruit, it looks like they are wearing fuchsia lipstick. They eat very well from my garden. They love my violets, especially the leaves and the purple flowers that fall daily from bushes whose name escapes me. They hibernate between late October and early March. Sometimes we come across their dens when we are out and about in the winter and other years, we have no idea where they have been hibernating.
They certainly have not been pets in the traditional sense. For the most part, they aren’t on my mind. It always fun to see them first appear on a warm day in spring, looking sleepy and moving even much more slowly than tortoises normally do. I do love watching their reaction to the summer rains, racing as only tortoises can, to any indentation where the water will puddle. I like to watch them lumber about and see what interests them. We have had baby bobcats who were very interested in them until the tortoise popped his head right back into the shell.
Last fall we had some excitement that we haven’t had before. There were babies! We had four (we didn't find the 4th until the others were adopted so no complete portrait) and found good homes for all of them.
This was a staged photo. There is no interaction once the eggs are laid but I just couldn't resist showing the size difference between the babies and adults.
If you are interested there are more bobcat photos here and more tortoise photos here. Please find lovely outdoor photos at Outdoor Wednesday.