Peter the tortoise may not be fast but he’s big and in the end, that may have made all the difference.
Peter, an African spurred Sulcata tortoise, went missing from his home the London, Ont., neighbourhood of Old South Sunday evening.
His owner, Amanda Craddock, said Peter was able to escape his backyard enclosure by using his body like a pry bar, wedging it open so he could bust out and have a crawl around the neighbourhood.
Peter is five years old, a virtual toddler for a creature that can live longer than 70 years. He needs to be kept warm. In the winter that means special heating lights, but with this weekend’s summer-like weather, he got some backyard time and made good use of it.
Craddock runs Village Catering and Deli in Thamesford, Ont. She regularly brings home extras for Peter. She figures the extra food helped him bulk up enough over winter to execute his spring escape.
“The guy lives off a few heads of Romaine lettuce a day,” she said. “He’s a strong guy and he outsmarted us this time.”
“He’s getting stronger and he was able to use his body to unhitch the nails that hold his house together,” said Craddock. “Over the winter he gained five pounds and he was stronger than we were ready for. His house had been pushed over and was detached from our fence line.”
Once Craddock was alerted to Peter’s escape, she posted an urgent message on the Old South Community Board Facebook group.
‘Have you seen my reptile?’
It asked that people check their yards and message her if they spotted Peter on the prowl.
“We had all the neighbours looking,” said Craddock. “I had to knock on people’s doors and say ‘Have you seen my reptile?'”
Unknown to Craddock, a neighbour had already spotted Petter walking on a nearby street.
They didn’t know Peter was a pet and assumed he was a wild turtle. At the time they found him, they hadn’t seen the Facebook post.
Concerned the tortoise might come to a bad end while out wandering, the people who found Peter brought him by car to the Coves, a wetland with walking trails west of Wharncliffe Road South and south of Springbank Drive.
“Their intentions were good. They had no idea he was a pet,” said Craddock. “Tortoises aren’t like turtles. They don’t swim like turtles, they drown in water.”
After Peter was dropped off at the Coves, the people who brought him there saw Craddock’s post and realized they’d relocated someone’s pet, not a wild turtle.
They contacted Craddock, giving her specific directions about the spot along the trail where they’d set Peter free.
This was shaping up to be a needle-in-a-haystack kind of search situation. How could they track down one wandering tortoise in such a densely forested area?
“Heading down there I was really worried,” said Craddock.
When she arrived at the Coves on Monday morning it didn’t take her long to locate Peter. Mainly because others on the trail had spotted him already.
“Sure enough, when we came down here there were all sorts of families that had already found him and were checking him out,” said Craddock.
“Luckily he’s smart and he did not want to go into the water,” she said.
CBC News caught up with an elated Craddock as she headed to her car after collecting Peter.
She was happy the big guy had survived the ordeal.
“He’s our pride and joy,” she said. “We got him when he was just six months and now he’s five years old and he’s 20 pounds and we hope to have him another 80 years.
“I’m so glad to have him back. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
Unfortunately for Peter, he’ll now be subject to a stepped up security regime, including a new pry-proof outdoor enclosure.
“He’s grounded now,” said Craddock.