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3 West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona, Tuesday, May 15, 2012 ----CLIP & SAVE---- ----CLIP & SAVE---- ----CLIP & SAVE----

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View photo by Michael Clawson

Name that tortoise

by Sara Clawson staff writer

have a Thelma and Louise on their hands. Or perhaps a Laverne and Shirley. Two tiny desert tortoises were recently adopted by the park, at 14805 W. Vineyard Ave. in Goodyear. They were born at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in the Northeast Valley, said Mark Paulat, park ranger at Estrella Mountain Regional Park. “We had some adults on display there and turns out one of them wasn’t a girl, so we ended up with a few others,” Paulat said. Seven baby turtles were born and as far as officials can tell, the two now living at the Estrella park are female. The Arizona native reptiles are nameless. The park is

having a naming contest and is searching for fun monikers for these spunky shelled land dwellers, Paulat said. “These two are adorable,” he said. They currently live in the Nature Center at the park. Their playground includes plenty of rocks to climb over and ledges to sun themselves on along with a watering hole and food bowl. “They climb all over in here. They knock themselves

over, flip themselves over, flip each other back and they eat like little cows,” Paulat said. “They graze constantly.” Their diet consists mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables,

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he said. Although they currently feast primarily on romaine lettuce, they will crave grasses as an adult. The tortoises were born in September and were not much bigger than a golf ball. They’ve since doubled in size but can easily fit in the palm of a hand. They will remain indoors for a few years, until they are

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large enough to fend off predators. “They grow pretty rapidly when they’re babies, but rapidly in turtle time versus people time is going to be a couple of years before they’re big enough to go outside because the mortality rate for baby tortoises is very high in the wild,” the park ranger said. “Everything eats them. Roadrunners will swallow them whole.” But that doesn’t mean they can’t defend themselves. Desert tortoises have quite a bite on them, Paulat said. “I can tell you, if you’ve ever been bit by one, you’ll never

forget it. They’ll take a chunk of flesh; they’re very strong,” he said. “They can actually take chunks out of a prickly pear cactus and that’s a very fibrous plant. To sit there and just take a chunk out of it, spines and all — they’re tough.”

Name that tortoise

The tortoise naming contest will continue until May 31. To enter, visit the Nature Center and fill out an entry form with your contact information and two name suggestions, Paulat said.

On May 19, a program called Las Tortugas! has been scheduled to introduce the animals to the public. The informational session begins at 1 p.m. at the Nature Center and participants will have an opportunity to suggest tortoise names at the event. Paulat will choose the winning entry and announce the winner at 10 a.m. June 2. You must be present to win the grand prize, which is four passes to Wet ’N’ Wild water park in Phoenix.

Park offerings

Day — Did you know there are more than 50 threatened and endangered species in Arizona? What can you do to help them? Find out at this presentation in the Nature Center. May 18 at 6 p.m.: Bird Weirdness! Joe Ford of the Sonoran Audubon Society will explain “Bird Weirdness,” a program that highlights unusual facts and information about birds, some now extinct, some common, but all with unusual histories or anatomical features. Meet in the Nature Center. May 19 at 8 a.m.: Bingo Hike — Everybody wins when they go on a bingo hike. Meet Ranger Mark at the Coldwater Trailhead for this informative and fun 2.5 mile hike. Take a friend, plenty of water, sturdy closed-toed shoes, a hat and sunscreen. May 19 at 3 p.m.: SSScorpions! — They’re

There are more fun things to do at the park this month. The following is a list of scheduled activities. The park is at 14805 W. Vineyard Road in Goodyear. There is a $6 per vehicle entry fee. May 17 at 10 a.m.: Thursday Theater — Join Ranger Mark in the Nature Center for this week’s feature presentation of “Antz” on the big screen. Their tiny world is turned upside down when an ant falls in love with a princess and discovers an evil plot to take over the kingdom. Take a picnic lunch to eat in the park. May 18 at 1 p.m.: Endangered Species

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RANGER MARK PAULAT holds two 8-month- old desert tortoises, each about the size of a kiwi fruit, May 11 at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear. The park is having a contest to name the two that are now on display.


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creepy! They’re crawly! They’re crunchy! Wait. What? Come out to the Nature Center and join Ranger Mark as he talks about these durable desert denizens. May 31 at 10 a.m.: Thursday Theater — The animated movie Madagascar will be shown on the big screen in the Nature Center. Take a picnic lunch to eat in the park afterward.

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