Range is centered around the southern border of Nevada and California, including most of southeastern California, southern Nevada, western Arizona, and the southwest corner of Utah.
This strictly terrestrial species is specialized for desert living. It spends most of its time burrowed underground to avoid extreme temperatures. It is most active in early spring, and becomes completely inactive during the winter months. Due to its burrowing needs, this species prefers habitats with sandy loam soil that crumbles easily but does not collapse easily. It can be found in a variety of desert habitats at elevations from sea level to 3,500 feet.
This medium-sized tortoise averages 12-14 inches in carapace length and can weigh up to 15 lbs, with females being slightly smaller than males. Hatchlings start out primarily yellowish tan with dark grey-brown seams between the carapace scutes, and a solid yellowish tan plastron. As they age, the light coloration slowly disappears and they become grey all over, except the plastron which remains yellowish tan. When viewed from above, adults have a rectangular shape. When viewed from the side, their carapace is flat on top, slightly sloped at the front, and steeply sloped at the back. Their front legs are wide with large, hardened scales, and their hind legs are thinner and less armored. They use their strong front legs to cover and protect their face when pulled into their shell, and for digging burrows. Their carapace scutes have very slight pyramiding, and they have 2 elongated gular scutes at the front of the plastron.
Learn more with Schechter Natural History's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians