Escaped tortoise returned to family
EDMONTON – A tortoise who escaped from his yard is now home with his family in Sherwood Park.
Turns out, 10-year-old Tucker the Tortoise is a reptile escape artist. He’s a sulcata or spurred tortoise from South Africa, which means his legs have spurs that can break through drywall or dig under fences, according to the Alberta Turtle and Tortoise Society.
Around 5 p.m. Monday peace officer Cody Rossing was called to a part of Township Road 521 west of Highway 21 in Strathcona County. Thinking he and colleague Evan Brown would find a turtle the size of a Frisbee, Rossing was surprised to find an 80-pound tortoise waddling along.
“I was surprised the speed he was going,” Rossing said Tuesday. “We didn’t have the radar going. He was walking speed, that’s for sure.”
The two officers hoisted Tucker up — each clutching a side — and buckled him into the back seat. He wiggled out a few times, but they made it to the Edmonton Humane Society safely, Rossing said.
Officers first thought the stray was a tortoise named Leafy who’s been missing since 2009. Instead, a different family identified him as Tucker and collected him Tuesday morning, humane society spokeswoman Jocelyn Wady said.
While Tucker is the society’s first tortoise in at least three years, tortoise society founder Dave Law said he receives at least three calls a week about turtles and tortoises that need rescuing.
And sulcata tortoises are frequent escapees, he said.
“Those are one of the hardest-to-keep-in tortoises,” Law said.
These tortoises — which can grow to 150 pounds — are the “reptile equivalent of a cow,” he said. They’re naturally driven to walk miles to find food. With their leg spurs, they can plow through dry wall, crack floors and dig under fences — and quickly.
“They can move when they want to move, and if you aren’t paying attention, they’ll be gone before you know it,” Law said.
“They’re not trying to run away. They’re trying to do what they’re programmed to do.”
They can be sold as toonie-sized infants, but quickly grow, making them an often-abandoned pet, Law said.
Rossing said he’s glad Tucker’s family found him within a day.
“Knowing now that he’s one of the faster tortoises out there, it’s privileged to know we are able to stay caught up with such a marvellous creature,” Rossing said.