Tortoise breeding endangers Fish & Wildlife jobs

Clark County commissioners voted last week to stop picking up and caring for unwanted pet Mojave Desert tortoises as of the end of the year.

The county has been funding the care of the cast-off tortoises at a 220-acre conservation center operated by state and federal agencies.

About 98 percent of the 1,000 tortoises delivered yearly to the center are unwanted pets, county officials say, and all those extra tortoises have pushed the county’s yearly tortoise maintenance costs to $700,000. The county also pays $104,000 a year to a private firm that drives around collecting the critters from owners who call a 24-hour hot line.

Federal wildlife officials spoke against the county discontinuing the programs, arguing the county should do its part to ensure residents don’t dump their pet desert tortoises in … well, the desert, where they’re likely to survive, since that’s where they come from.

(Me, I’d bet on them heading right home, just like Lassie, albeit a bit slower. They clearly prefer our suburban buffets.)

The feds contend the tame tortoises might spread a respiratory infection to their wild brethren. In fact, old-timers say the condition, known as “white-eye,” has long been endemic among wild tortoises. Where’s the control experiment to demonstrate desert releases exacerbate the problem? In fact, if some nutrient deficiency contributes, who’s to say a few years of yard feeding might not help?

County, state and federal officials agreed to meet and discuss how to deal with the growing volume of unwanted pets.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani suggested outlawing new pet tortoises, with existing pets grandfathered in.

That was essentially done two decades ago, when the desert tortoise became federally “protected,” noted Janet Bair, regional field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But It didn’t stop owners from unlawfully breeding their animals — the root of the current problem, she said.

(I’m breaking federal law if I allow two tortoises to … oh dear.)

There’s been no proven method for spaying or neutering tortoises until recently, when experiments showed some success in spaying a female tortoise, explained Roy Averill-Murray, who coordinates desert tortoise “recovery” for Fish and Wildlife.

It wasn’t a desert tortoise but it was still a tortoise, Averill-Murray said, adding that the method will need more research before it’s applied.

“We would have to test that,” Bair said.

OK, very slowly now, let’s see if we can remain calm while pointing out: If the Mojave Desert Tortoise is threatened or endangered, everyone involved should be very happy that they’re breeding, wherever, however. In fact — now that the number of tortoises living in private Las Vegas homes clearly exceeds the numbers of several of the rarer breeds of pet cats — could you tell us again precisely how many new little turtles we need to breed before we can stop pretending they’re “threatened,” let people go back to building houses wherever they want (since the spread of humankind clearly only BENEFITS the little tortoises, making them very HAPPY) and turn our efforts to “recovering” the California Spangled, the Kurilian Bobtail, the Lambkin, the Safari, the Serengeti, and the Skookum?

Whereas, on the other hand, if they’re worried that there are now tens of thousands of Mojave Desert Tortoises in shelters, in people’s back yards, all over the place, breeding like crazy — to the point where the federal officials currently eating out our substance here in the West are searching for ways to SPAY the lady tortoises, then …


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In a recent column, I pointed out that when brilliant economist Murray Rothbard analyzed the failure of the Hoover-Roosevelt policies of the 1930s in his 1963 book “America’s Great Depression,” he unwittingly also predicted how the current Bush-Obama interventions would only lengthen and worsen our current recession/depression.

Several respondents thereupon dismissed Professor Rothbard as a “kook.”

How much space is this worth?

Leave aside for the moment the impressive biography of Professor Rothbard, easily found at Let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument (that is to say: even though it’s not true), that Murray Rothbard was some kind of “kook” who ran around in a tin foil hat. Let’s also stipulate (this happens to be true) that Isaac Newton had bouts of “crazy” behavior later in life — probably due to his incautious handling of mercury during his chemical experiments.

If we thus conclude Isaac Newton was a “kook,” does this make it safe to step off the balcony of a high-rise building, confident that Newton’s characterization of the laws of gravity doesn’t accurately predict our subsequent tumble to our deaths?

No. The theory of gravity stands or falls based on how it explains observable phenomena in the real world, not on whether we approve of Isaac Newton’s style of dress, whether he used the correct fork at dinner, or whether he occasionally crawled around on all fours chattering like a badger. Similarly, the question is whether it is Keynesian theory (which holds that the interventionist policies of George Bush, not changed but merely placed on steroids by Barack Obama, should by now have ended the recession) or Murray Rothbard’s analysis of how the similar Hoover-Roosevelt interventions simply made the economy worse by preventing a true recovery, does a better job of explaining real-world economic phenomena as we now observe them.

This leads us to the parallel but even more absurd “sound bite,” that “Since it took George Bush eight years to screw things up, it’s going to take us a while to set things to rights.”

In the first place, why? Since markets tend to ANTICIPATE predictable developments, if this administration had made sufficient changes and reforms to assure the kind of folks who lend, borrow and invest that we now have in place a sane, stable economic framework for profitable recovery, that recovery would already be underway — in more places than a short-term stock market jump, with said stocks valued in suspiciously inflated dollars.

But the most crucial point should be the most obvious: To say it’s going to take a while for our “changes” to work, clearly implies there have been “changes.”

What changes?

Have the financial institutions that invested badly been cut off from government support and allowed to fail, teaching their successors a hard lesson about the real-world consequences of shoving people’s money into the financial mystery loafs known as “derivatives” and “mortgage-based securities”? Have federal housing and mortgage subsidies been eliminated, allowing home and housing prices to fall to a true free-market level? Have all artificial government wage and price supports and tax and regulatory discouragements on hiring new workers been repealed? Have the gang of Goldman-Sachs-Federal-Reserve-Bank-of-New-York cronies who have run things, uninterrupted, through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations been fired outright; the Federal Reserve Board closed; the FDIC Ponzi-scheme that discourages investors from closely examining their banks’ investment policies shut down; the power to mint money and set its value in gold or silver restored to Congress, producing a new, inflation-proof gold and/or silver dollar?

How many “no’s” is that?

In fact, just as the Obama policies on Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing but direct extensions of the Bush policies on Iraq and Afghanistan (albeit accompanied by some new pathetic mewing about how ashamed we are to be doing these terrible things without the cooperation of the Swedes, the Norwegians, and the French), so the Obama “bail out and stimulate” economic policies are nothing but the Bush-MCain “bail out and stimulate” economic policies, on steroids. So how long is it we’re supposed to wait for a new administration DOING EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF AS THE LAST ADMINISTRATION, ONLY BIGGER to demonstrate the success of this “change”?

One Comment to “Tortoise breeding endangers Fish & Wildlife jobs”

  1. Rob Says:

    The only change I can see is the ever increasing intrusions of the federal/state/local governments into our private lives. If they would just go away and leave us alone perhaps we could recover on our own!
    Americans used to be self reliant; pity that is not the case any longer.