50-pound turtle apprehended in Texas

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2004

AMARILLO, Texas It's not every day you go outside and see a 50-pound turtle in the middle of your street.

Just such a creature was on the lam from an unknown origin. He was corralled by homeowner Jeff Burkett.

"I couldn't believe he was outside just wandering around," Burkett said. "He followed me right up on the sidewalk. I called 911 because I couldn't think of anything else to do. It was a trip."

Mind you, this was not an ordinary turtle that you used to get at the pet store for 50 cents. This sucker was big.

Syrena Carrasco, a city of Amarillo Animal Control officer, estimated his weight at 50 pounds. Burkett thought he might weigh more.

"I didn't pick him up to see," he said. "He's really good-natured, though."

Because the gender of the animal was not discussed by officials, everyone assumed the unnamed fugitive was a male. Determining the sex of the animal was not an issue with authorities.

"My wife said, 'Uh-uh, there isn't a turtle that big in our yard,'" Burkett said. "My daughter didn't believe me either. I had to take pictures of him to show them since they weren't home at the time."

The animal is unofficially estimated to be 30 years old, said Shannon Barlow, Animal Control supervisor.

"I think you're supposed to count the rings on the shell," Barlow said. "I'm not sure. That's why it's an unofficial estimate."

Because the wandering, wayward tortoise was not carrying proper identification and wouldn't answer officials' questions, his origin or destination could not be determined.

"I don't think anyone would turn him loose deliberately," neighbor Kay Nunnally said. "Especially without water. I couldn't believe my eyes. It's a mystery to me."

"He didn't just go missing this morning," Burkett said. "I feel like he's probably somebody's pet. He's very docile and good-natured. I fed him a head of lettuce, and he ate the whole thing."

Barlow said the animal will be behind bars for the required 72 hours before his fate will be decided.

She didn't lock him up with the general population for fear of his becoming turtle souffle for the dogs. He is in solitary confinement in a holding cell within the maximum-security animal shelter.

"We have a barn where he could stay outside," Barlow said. "But these guys are good diggers. He might try to break out."

The personnel at the lockdown haven't named him yet, Barlow said.

"I guarantee you before he leaves he will have a name," she said. "He might go to the zoo if someone doesn't claim him."

Burkett said the whole incident was a hoot.

"How often do you see a huge turtle just walking down the street?" he said. "I thought I'd seen most everything."

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