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Gov. Sandoval lives with a desert tortoise now

CARSON CITY — A new tenant has taken up residence at the Governor’s Mansion, and this one doesn’t have to worry about term limits or elections.

Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday welcomed “Carson,” an 11-year-old desert tortoise adopted through the Tortoise Group, a rescue agency that acquired him from a Southern Nevada owner who had too many to keep.

The crinkly faced reptile scuttled about his new digs in the backyard, a grassy and shady enclosure surrounded by a low brick wall. There is a small pool of water and a man-made burrow, or “man cave,” for him to snuggle in.

Carson came with his own adoption papers and sports a “Governor’s Mansion” tag on his hard shell in case he gets lost.

Unlike Sandoval, whose term is up at the end of 2018, Carson won’t be leaving the mansion. He is now a permanent resident, a “mansion mascot,” as the governor described him, and could be around for a long, long time.

Desert tortoises can live to be 100 years old.

“It’s a chance to have a legacy here at the mansion … and also a mansion mascot as well,” Sandoval said.

“This is something the children and the people of Nevada can enjoy for generations. Even better, it’s our state reptile.”


Kobbe Shaw, executive director of the Tortoise Group, gave the governor a crash course on how to care for the critter. Volunteers brought some tortoise grub — essentially freeze-dried grass that, when mixed with water, turns into mush.

Rose petals and grape leaves are a delicious treat. “He’ll go crazy for them,” Shaw said.

But lettuce is a no-no, and it’s best to stay away from giving him fruit.

The desert tortoise, listed as a threatened species, lives naturally in the desert Southwest. It does well in Northern Nevada’s climate but needs a little help to survive the cold of winter.

For that, shredded newspaper in a cardboard box makes a cozy abode. In the winter, recommendations call for putting a tortoise in a box and storing it in a closet for the winter while it hibernates. Scratching sounds in the spring will let a caretaker know when the tortoise wakes up.

Shaw said his agency has adopted out 56 tortoises so far this year and is trying to find homes for 180 more.

Sandoval said he hopes the newest pet at the governor’s mansion will help that cause.

“There are a lot of other tortoises like him that need good homes,” Sandoval said as he admired the reptile. “What an incredible animal and pet.”

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Find @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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