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Desert Tortoise Habitat Checklist


  • The recommended area for the tortoise is 600 square feet (for example, 30′ x 20′).
  • Some areas of shade and some of full sun.
  • Area must be fenced.
    • Chain link and wrought iron must be faced with something 18″ high that the tortoise cannot see through.
    • For NNV, 12”-long stakes placed in ground every 4” along perimeter to prevent digging out
  • One-foot clear space around edge of the habitat for tortoise to walk


The most important feature of the habitat.

  • Drainage from roof and yard will not enter burrow
  • Burrow is at least 5′ from walls, sidewalks, and plants on all sides
  • Burrow is located in a completely dry at least 10′ x 10′.Burrow opening faces south (or southeast or southwest) to avoid the hot summer sun.
  • Burrow opening does not face east, north, or west to avoid the hot summer sun.
  • Orient the burrow so that, when the tortoise extends the channel, it will not go into a wet area, the neighbor’s yard, or under your house.

Burrow Info
In the booklet Desert Tortoises Adoption and Care, see how to build an Underground Burrow (pp 9-14), an Aboveground Burrow (p 15) and a Hatching Burrow (p 23-24). Examples of Aboveground Burrows are available.


  • Build a covered Water Dish


  • Put in a variety of plants from our list so that the tortoise can browse
Tortoise Friendly Plants

Gate Barrier and Locking Gate

Northern Nevada Brumation Location

  • A safe, indoor locations maintained at 35-50°F


  • Stacked Windsor blocks are easy for tortoises to climb
  • Check yard equipment, firewood, toys, etc. A tortoise can crawl under or climb up on
    items and tip over or get stuck. This can easily lead to death.
  • Modify steps and other drop-offs.
  • Fence an open pool or pond
  • Frisky, untrainable dogs can harm or kill a tortoise.
  • Block or cover open fences (like chain link). Tortoise sticks arm in and hurts the arm or nail.
  • Do not use pelletized fertilizer
  • Watch for opening where a tortoise might become stuck and die in the heat
  • Pick up litter