A 155-pound tortoise that escaped over the weekend was back at his northwestern Forsyth County home Monday.
Elexis Hays, who along with her family owns Tortellini the tortoise, said the animal got away Thursday from their property in the Matt community.
The site is used as an animal rehabilitation and education facility for various critters, ranging from pigs and sheep to squirrels and emus.
“We had a group from DeKalb County here Thursday night and so my husband, Buddy, walked them down to the creek and when they came back up they didn’t secure the gate,” she said.
“So Tortellini went out, down the hill, through Setten Down Creek, up through the [Matt Elementary] school property, through a swamp, through the woods — I mean he traveled.”
When the family realized he was missing, Hays said they began an all-out search.
She said their efforts included hiring a “bloodhound man” to try and track the tortoise, which the family has had for about a decade.
But Hays said that didn’t work because tortoises, which are native to Africa, “don’t leave anything behind” for a bloodhound to smell.
They then went online to get the word out and posted “missing tortoise” signs all around the area.
Hays said she received two calls about the missing animal. One was a prank at midnight Saturday, and the other came from a lady who thought she had seen the creature for sale.
“She called and said, ‘I’m so worried about your tortoise, I think someone has him and is selling him [online],’” Hays said. “Then the third call we got was the one that he had been found.”
April Geissert, who lives in a nearby subdivision, said her children discovered Tortellini on Sunday afternoon as they were walking to a neighbor’s home.
“My stepdaughter said they were just walking down to the neighbors next door to us and she saw what she thought was a big rock,” Geissert said. “She was like, ‘Whoa, look at that big rock.’ And then it got up and started walking.”
Geissert said she knew exactly what the animal was because she had seen one of Hays’ missing tortoise signs Friday when dropping the kids off at Matt Elementary.
“I was going, ‘How in the world do you lose a tortoise that’s 155 pounds?’” she said.
Hays said she was relieved to have Tortellini back home, although she stressed that others shouldn’t adopt tortoises as pets.
“I went to bed [Sunday] night and was like, ‘I’m so happy my baby is home,’” she said. “I really do feel that way about all my animals.
“But my main thing is get out the message that tortoises don’t make good pets.”
She noted that the animals can be hard to care for due to their large size and long lifespan, which can reach 150 years.
“They seem like a great animal, but who’s going to take care of them? Tortellini’s in our will,” she said.