Why It’s Bad to Scare A Desert Tortoise

In the 8 years I’ve lived in Nevada, I STILL haven’t crossed paths with a desert tortoise in the wild – so I was jealous when Fan Brok Armantrout said he’d recently passed by one on the road up near Bootleg Canyon.

I asked him to share the close-up photo that I was certain he’d taken, but alas — he said he doesn’t get too near them so they don’t umm … go potty and possibly die.  This bewildered me, but he explained and it’s super interesting!

It seems that tortoises have large bladders and they store water in them for use as vital hydration or in self defense.  This fluid is apparently distasteful to predators, so when a tortoise is scared (i.e. if you pick it up or get too close), it may suddenly empty its bladder in hopes that you’ll leave it alone.  However, this defense can be costly because if the tortoise cannot replace the fluids promptly, it can die of dehydration.

So there you have it — a VERY good reason to just let the little guys go on their slow and merry way!

p.s. – I zoomed in on this photo … it was taken from much farther back than it appears, btw.

Brok Armantrout Tortoise in Boulder City, Nevada

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