Often, a tortoise realizes you normally bring food, so it gets excited. This is a highlight for many torts, so it’ll pursue you because it wants to be fed, not chase you away.
Tortoises that have bonded with their owners look forward to seeing them. For example, some tortoises visibly enjoy petting sessions, especially head and neck rubs.
However, the main reason tortoises chase people is due to territoriality and hormonal fluctuations.
Mating tortoises, pregnant (gravid) tortoises, and tortoises defending territory will protect their space from the incursions of rivals, leading to them chasing off intruders.
A male tort may chase its owner (even if it recognizes and trusts them) during the mating season to impress a potential mate or drive off perceived competition.
If a tortoise charges your feet, especially if you’re wearing black shoes, it may have confused them for another tortoise, so it’ll seek to headbutt or ram them in the way it would a rival animal.
Why Is My Tortoise Chasing Me?
Tortoises rarely chase people due to their easy-going and relaxed nature, but there are circumstances when it can happen. A tortoise will pursue you in these situations:
1/ Territorial Behavior
According to Biological Conservation, tortoises establish territories and can be very defensive of these spaces, especially during mating season.
If a tortoise feels threatened about its enclosure or burrows, it may start chasing you to protect them.
This is common if you introduce a new tortoise to the enclosure. It’ll feel unsettled by the new surroundings and want to comfort itself by establishing territory.
Male tortoises can get riled by the presence of a second male. This defensive behavior can bleed over into its other relationships, causing it to defend its territory against you and other tortoises.
Most species of tortoises are loners, so they shouldn’t live together.
2/ Mating Season
If you’re wondering, “why does my male tortoise chase me?” it’s likely because it’s the mating season.
During this time, male tortoises compete for the attention of females. They don’t appreciate rivals and will attempt to drive them off. Even chasing an owner away may be a way to show off to a female.
Spending time with a female tort in heat can annoy a male, especially if he believes you’re competition.
One option is to separate male and female tortoises until the mating season is over. You can also give them more space until their hormones subside and their behavior normalizes.
If a tortoise doesn’t act aggressively, it may just be excited about its meal. Tortoises can learn to recognize their owner and expect food to be given at a certain time.
Tortoises may chase you when they’re hungry, anticipating getting fed.
If a tortoise is desperate to eat, it’ll be eager to access food. So, it may display butting behavior when you have food because it wants to be fed without further delays.
This is the tortoise’s way of telling you it’s hungry and annoyed that it’s not eating. You can resolve this behavior by feeding it smaller meals more regularly or adjusting the nutritional balance of its diet.
You can also create a fixed mealtime schedule, so the tortoise knows when to expect food.
If a tortoise chases you outside of mealtimes and doesn’t appear aggressive, it may be happy to see you.
Wild tortoises are solitary creatures, but that doesn’t mean they’re devoid of social behavior. Tortoises interact with others in their area and display complex social relationships, even outside of mating.
According to Herpetologica, tortoises develop structured domestic hierarchies, determining how food, water, and space are allocated. Tortoises like having neighbors but not roommates.
A tortoise may see you as a friendly neighbor and want to see you. For example, it may associate you with getting neck and head rubs, which many tortoises greatly enjoy.
5/ Lack of Space
A tortoise is likely to feel bored and inhibited by a lack of space to dig, climb, and explore.
According to Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, certain environmental conditions and dangers can result in a tortoise sharing a burrow with another tortoise. However, this is uncommon.
A tortoise may drive you away if you handle them regularly and walk around its enclosure. Consequently, this can lead to a tortoise aggressively chasing you or seeking to hide in a burrow.
Although slow-paced reptiles, tortoises need enrichment to feel happy and contented.
Tortoises can be curious animals that like exploring their environment. If a tortoise follows you, it may be because it’s interested in discovering more about its environment.
If a tortoise has nowhere to explore or burrow and nothing interesting to eat, it’s likely to grow bored. This can leave it seeking fun things to do, which includes chasing after you.
The more bored a tortoise gets, the more moody and temperamental it’ll become. So, ensure that the tortoise has things to do, like ramps to walk over and climbing activities.
If you’re wondering, “why does my female tortoise chase me?” pregnancy is likely the explanation. The territorial instincts of a pregnant tortoise are amplified, so she can become very defensive.
While carrying eggs (gravid), she may be more defensive of herself and her territory. You may also find she enters disputes with other female tortoises and chases after you.
These actions drive you away from where her eggs will be laid. You can tell if this is the case when the female explores the enclosure and digs in several locations.
Tortoises don’t protect their eggs after they’re laid, as tortoises don’t protect their young. So, this aggressive behavior will pass once she has laid her eggs.
If a tortoise is chasing you, it’s likely for hormonal reasons due to the mating season, pregnancy, or courting behavior. Once the mating season concludes, this behavior should cease.
If a tortoise is hungry, bored, or needs space, provide food, enrichment, and hiding places. Of course, if the tortoise isn’t acting defensively or aggressively, it’s likely just pleased to see you.