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Vulnerable to the harsh desert conditions the desert tortoise spends almost all of its time waiting out extreme temperatures in its underground burrow There this armored terrestrial turtle conserves its energy and stays relatively cool during summer months and relatively warm during winter months This turtle Californias official state reptile carries a high-domed tan to dark brown carapace shell which protects them from most predators Yet even those shells are unable to shield the desert tortoise from such threats as the golden eagle and the automobileDesert tortoises commonly dig their burrows in dry gravelly soil beneath creosote bushes large shrubs or beside washes in the open desert The burrows have entrances shaped like half moons like the tortoises profiles and can range from one to ten feet depending on how many animals might inhabit the burrow They often share their burrows with lizards snakes rabbits woodrats or other desert creatures who do not pose a threat to themLate winter and spring are peak times to view active desert tortoises Although sometimes a tortoise may emerge from its burrow during the early morning or late afternoon hours of the summer months most remain underground until a late summer rainfall offers them a chance to replenish their water reserves By October most tortoises begin their winter hibernationIn mid-March rising temperatures and sprouting annual plants entice desert tortoises out of hibernation They emerge to feast upon the tender grasses broad-leafed annuals and new shoots of perennials that pop up from the deserts sandy soils Desert tortoises also like to dig shallow basins in areas with impermeable soil to catch drinking water from brief thunderstorms the desert might have However they can go for years without drinking any water taking most of their moisture from the plants they feed on and storing the water in their bladderWhen not in hibernation desert tortoises tend to court whenever the opportunity arises There is no well-defined mating season but much of the
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