Saturday morning. Tortoise people: Is this animal male or female? Age estimate?
Photos by Stephanie Smith
Notes from a noted regional wildlife surveyor:
You can’t really tell if it’s a boy or girl from this angle- you need to flip it over and look at the plastrum (bottom) or at least take your camera and angle it underneath the back half to see the shape of the shell under there. A girl would be flat but a boy would have an indentation towards the bottom, so the torti can….ahem!…..lock together more effectively. Another less reliable way is to look at the way shell scutes come up and out from under the chin of the tortoise- males tend to have longer bits sticking out because they use those to fight other males for the females and because of this, there’s a tendency for the males to have a much better developed sturcture, but the real way is to look underneath. Since I don’t have a tortoise handler permit, I wouldn’t even be able to touch the tortoise legally so we’ll just have to leave it with an ambiguous record for now.
One reference I found says they live for 130-150 years. Another mentions that the number of growth rings can vary from 0-several per year so counting the rings may not be a reliable way to determine age. It also says a desert tortoise can have many burrows distributed across it’s home range.
You have a very interesting and wonderful homestead.
Without touching them (which would violate both the federal and state endangered species acts as well as potentially passing viruses etc on to the tortoise) the gular horn and the glands are pretty good sex determiners. As for age the tortoise is an adult that has not entered old age other than that it is hard to tell how old the tort is.
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