Texas Tortoise

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

This summer day began like any other until an unusual tortoise was brought to the Wildlife Center. At least it wasn’t as big as the African Spurred Thigh Tortoise . In quick order the tortoise was identified as a Texas Tortoise and its status as a threatened species was confirmed. The twist was that a captive Texas Tortoise, by law CAN NOT BE RELEASED back into the wild! The Wildlife Center is sometimes placed in an awkward position when people illegally possessing wildlife turn to us for help. Almost all native Texas wildlife is protected and its possession, transportation or removal from its native environment is illegal. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife take these protections very seriously. If the animal in question is threatened or endangered, there are additional hoops to jump through. When a threatened or endangered animal comes into our possession, it must be immediately reported to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Do you know the difference between a turtle, tortoise and terrapin? Don’t feel bad; biologists wrestle with this question too. All three are reptiles called chelonians. The placement of a specific species into a category is based more on where the animal spends its time instead of strict taxonomic differences. Aquatic turtles like sea turtles spend almost no time on land and have an adaptation that has turned their legs into flippers. Turtles spend some portion of their lifecycle in the water or spend significant time in or near water. Their feet are usually webbed for more efficient swimming. The Red-eared Slider is a good example. Tortoises are usually associated with deserts or at least dry environments and have rear legs that remind one of an elephant’s. [...]