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How to adopt a desert tortoise from Arizona Game and Fish

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The deadline draws near: Anyone looking to adopt a desert tortoise this year from the Arizona Game and Fish Department needs to get their application in soon before it is time for the reptiles to hibernate for the winter.

Tegan Wolf, the desert tortoise adoption program coordinator for the department, said over email that she thinks Oct. 19 will be the application deadline this year, but “you want to get your application in as soon as possible.”

Wolf said close to 800 tortoises have been adopted since the program formally began in 2016.

Fred and Debbie Santesteban live in Chandler and decided to adopt a desert tortoise from Arizona Game and Fish in 2001. Today, Gus still lives in his burrow in their backyard. 

After two decades Gus has figured out some tricks: “He’ll open the door and come in for the day,” Fred said, explaining that Gus can use his front leg to open their sliding door. 

The Santestebans have been charmed by their reptile pet. “He’s part of the family and he’s part of the house,” Fred said about Gus. Debbie added that Gus has his “picture on the Christmas card.”

Why are desert tortoises available for adoption?

Desert tortoises are found in the wild in the Sonoran Desert and it is illegal to take one from its natural habitat and keep it as a pet. Despite this, they have become desirable as pets and some people illegally breed them, Wolf said.

“They can lay up to 12 eggs in captivity and most of them survive,” she said. “Because they live so long, it is usually about 10-12 years before they are large enough that people realize they are in over their head with 30-40 larger tortoises.”

She also some tortoises need to be rehomed because they

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Enormous California wildfire threatens desert homes near LA

A fire engine is driven through the devastation left behind by the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif.

A fire engine is driven through the devastation left behind by the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif.

AP

An enormous wildfire that churned through mountains northeast of Los Angeles and into the Mojave Desert was still threatening homes on Monday and was one of more than two dozen major fires burning across California.

Five of the largest wildfires in state history are currently burning and more than 5,600 square miles (14,500 square kilometers) have been charred, an area larger than the state of Connecticut, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

At 165 square miles (427 square kilometers), the Bobcat Fire is one of the largest ever in Los Angeles County after burning for more than two weeks. It was only about 15% contained.

Evacuation orders and warnings are in place for thousands of residents in foothill and desert areas, where semi-rural homes and a popular nature sanctuary have burned. Statewide, at least 23,000 people remain evacuated, Newsom said.

No injuries have been reported for the fire about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

However, 18 homes and other buildings have been destroyed and 11 damaged, some in the Juniper Hills area, with the toll rising to perhaps 85 when damage assessment teams can complete their work this week, fire officials said Monday evening.

Erratic winds that drove flames into the community of Juniper Hills over the weekend had died down, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Larry Smith.

“It’s slightly cooler too, so hopefully that will be a help to firefighters,” Smith said.

However, evacuation warnings — meaning residents should be prepared to flee if ordered — remained in effect for Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl and the annual Rose Parade, and Wrightwood, a mountain community near several

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