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Nevada wilderness trivia!

What to avoid hugging in the Silver State

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A Mojave Desert tortoise is shown in a quarantine area at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Sept. 2, 2011. The tortoise, some kept by people as pets, will be returned to the wild when they are healthy enough to leave.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Shell no. Look all you want, but don’t touch. Adorable as they may be, Desert Tortoises in the wild are not to be hugged, petted, picked up or taken home. The Gopherus agassizii, listed under the Endangered Species act in 1989, is protected under the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC 503 080). Touching them is illegal. tortoisegroup.org –Kristen Peterson

Land massive. Nevada ranks first among states with the largest percentages of government-owned land—a little more than 80 percent. As controversial as that may be, it means Las Vegas is surrounded by outdoor recreational opportunities as far as the eye can see. That includes Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. –KP

Eating the environment. The gray-green leaves and dark trunks of mesquite trees are some of the most common throughout the Valley, but you may not realize the tan seedpods that emerge around June are edible. Taking the shape of bean-like pods or clusters of rattling corkscrews, the seeds are packed with fiber and protein, with a smoky, sweet flavor and big crunch (we think they’re especially great with beer); they can even be ground into flour for making cookies, breads and pancakes. Experts recommend harvesting seeds directly from the tree—not the ground—before summer rains or during the dry autumn, as wetting them can produce fungal toxins. Dry the seeds out in the sun or on a low temperature in the oven and store in a cool, dry place. Harvest away from areas exposed to pollutants, such as major roadways or anywhere pesticides are sprayed; if you’re unsure, leave them be. –Andrea Domanick

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