The US desert tortoise has been listed as endangered and protected since 1990.
One facility near Las Vegas that has been caring for the animals now finds itself on the other end of the spectrum.
With federal funding for the program, coming to end workers at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center have been preparing to close the site and are euthanizing hundreds of the tortoises.
Now officials there will be forced to decide which of the nearly 1,400 turtles are deemed healthy enough to be released into the wild.
Expectations are that more than half will likely be euthanized as preparations are made for closure of the facility in 2014.
The centers $1 million budget had been funded by the housing boom.
A fee was charged to those who built on land that was considered to have “disturbed” the tortoise habitat.
That was fine during the housing boom but when things slowed down so did the influx of cash.
It’s thought that fewer than 100,000 tortoises survive in the habitats where they once thrived.