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Can You Put A Tracker on A Tortoise? (Finding Lost Tortoises)

Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Tortoises are slow movers, but they’re skilled at hiding, digging, and climbing. It’s impossible to monitor an outdoor tortoise constantly, and indoor tortoises are adept at escaping when exploring the home.

Once a tortoise is lost, regardless of age and size, it may not find its way home again.

Tracking a tortoise provides peace of mind. The issue is choosing the right tracker because some may not work for certain tortoise species due to their size, shape, or daily activities.

Do Tortoises Need Trackers?

Putting a tracker on a tortoise isn’t mandatory, but it can be beneficial.

Tortoises may be slow and unassuming, but they get lost surprisingly often because they can escape their owner’s property in many ways.

Tortoises don’t run away because they’re unhappy with their living conditions. Instead, they escape because it’s their nature to explore and hide.

Tortoises are foragers that spend most of their day looking for flowers, leaves, and insects to eat. Even if you provide them with all the food they need, they’ll still feel a strong urge to explore.

Tortoises become braver and more adventurous as they grow up. The University of South Florida stated that juvenile tortoises don’t forage far from their burrows.

They stay close to their homes because they’re vulnerable to predation and thermal stress. As they age, this becomes less of a problem, so they’re willing to explore further away.

The enclosure’s location will also determine if a tortoise could get lost. The tortoise can hide in the many spaces around your home if it’s inside.

The chances of a tortoise escaping outdoors increase because they’re expert climbers. Tortoises can escape via any vines, trees, stairs, or rocks you have against your fences.

If a fence is broken, a tortoise can escape through the gap. Depending on the layout of your backyard, it may also dig underneath a fence or burrow away from your property.

How To Keep Track of A Tortoise

Keeping track of a tortoise is more than knowing where it is located.

Instead, it’s sensible to know where your tortoise might be. This can help you understand where to look if your tortoise isn’t where it’s supposed to be.

This is made easier when you have a structured schedule for your tortoise. It’ll understand when it’s feeding time and approach you or a specific area of its enclosure. So, if your tortoise has wandered off, you have a greater chance of it returning to comply with this routine.

Additionally, if you let your small tortoise out so it can explore, keep an eye on it by enclosing it in a controlled environment, sectioned off by a barrier.

This can include a playpen or an outdoor area with a hard foundation beneath the substrate. As long as the terrain is flat and the barrier is tall, the tortoise shouldn’t be able to climb out.

Big tortoises in large outdoor enclosures are more difficult to find, which is why you should have a clear understanding of the following:

  • Where the tortoise burrows.
  • How it behaves when scared.
  • Where it likes to go when it explores.

As tortoises dig these tunnels for protection, the entrances are often well-hidden and hard to find. Check your yard often for any secret burrows your tortoise may be hiding.

Tortoises can hear and smell, so they’re often attracted to scents and sounds coming from far away. If you pay close attention to what your tortoise is attracted to, you can better guess where it went if it gets lost.

Tortoises hide when they feel scared. Even after the danger is gone, stress compels them to seek shelter. If they aren’t near their burrow, they’ll often choose a bush or boulder where they can hide.

Learn your tortoise’s favorite hiding spots so you know where to check first.

how to track a lost tortoise

How Do Tortoise Trackers Work?

Trackers function based on how you want to attach them to your pet tortoise. So, you can decide on one that fits your preferences and the tortoise’s activity levels. Tracker types include:

Stick-On Tracker

As the name implies, a stick-on tracker is a small device you can stick on your tortoise’s shell.

You can attach it with sticky tape, which often comes in the packaging, or adhere it more permanently with hot glue.

Due to the composition of a tortoise’s shell, this won’t harm them. The device connects to an app, which tells you where your tortoise is via GPS.

Tag Tracker

Tag trackers don’t need to be glued to a tortoise, as you can use them as a tag like a dog collar.

Of course, you can’t place a collar on a tortoise, but you can attach it with a string around the carapace. Then, these connect to an app that displays the tortoise’s location.


Microchips have no GPS technology, but they are helpful when it’s time to find a lost tortoise.

Vets and rescue centers can scan them and view your contact information so they can call you. In tortoises, microchips are implanted under the skin or into the muscle in the back of the leg.

QR Code Trackers

QR code trackers work like microchips, but you don’t need to implant them in the tortoise. Instead, they can be attached to a pet tortoise like a stick-on tracker or a normal tag.

How To Track A Lost Tortoise

The best way to track a tortoise is with a GPS tracker. Tortoises can travel surprisingly far, especially as adults. You can check the tortoise’s location with a tracker when you realize it’s gone.

If you don’t have a GPS tracker on your tortoise, here are ways to track it down:

  • Check indoor and outdoor cameras: If you have any cameras, check the footage to see if the camera captured the tortoise’s escape. If you lack cameras, consider getting at least one and point it at the tortoise’s enclosure.
  • Ask neighbors: Let your neighbors know that you’ve lost your tortoise. Show them pictures, give them a detailed description of the tortoise, and tell them the best way to contact you.
  • Ask local vets and rescues: Call vets and rescue centers in your area. Leave your contact information and send them pictures so they know what your tortoise looks like.
  • Post notices online: Post notices to online forums for your local area, but don’t offer a reward for finding your pet. Many people may try to kidnap tortoises for financial rewards.
  • Check the property for burrows: Tortoises often dig multiple burrows.
  • Check fences: Check both sides of your fence for gaps where the tortoise has escaped. Check the ground for holes, as the tortoise may have dug a tunnel under the fence.
  • Check the surrounding area: Check near bushes, trees, boulders, and tall grass.

Tortoise Tracker Pros and Cons

Different trackers have their advantages and disadvantages. No one tracker is better than the others because they all have different functions and features.

Once you’ve chosen a tracker with the features that suit your needs, choosing a reputable brand is up to you. Select a tracker that’s waterproof for when your tortoise soaks.

Here are the pros and cons of the different tracker types:

Tracker TypeProsCons
Stick-On Tracker:Easy to attach and use.There’s no GPS technology, and it may come off.
Tag Tracker:Easy to attach and use.It may come off.
Microchip:Invisible/permanent/reliable way of identifying tortoises.Requires minor surgery, no GPS technology, and may migrate if installed incorrectly.
QR Code Tracker:Easy to attach and use.There is no GPS technology, and it may come off.

How To Fit A Tortoise Tracker

Unfortunately, many trackers aren’t intended for tortoises. They’re commonly used for cats, dogs, and parrots, but not chelonians, so fitting a tracker on a tortoise can be difficult.

For stick-on trackers, attach them to the back of the tortoise’s shell with hot glue. This location is ideal since the tracker won’t be easily rubbed off, so it should be flat.

The glue isn’t hot enough to damage the tortoise’s shell if you don’t place the tracker on a scute with new growth.

You can’t use a tag or QR code tracker on a collar like you can with other pets. Instead, attach the tracker to a string or harness and tie it around the tortoise’s shell. Attach it so it doesn’t impede the tortoise from moving or going inside its shell.

Only a vet can implant a microchip in your tortoise. The process is quick, and tortoises heal fully around four weeks after the procedure.