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Unleashed
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Giant tortoise missing from Baltimore's Homeland neighborhood

Alexandra Roosevelt's back yard feels very empty these days. Tortley, her beloved giant African Spur Thigh tortoise, has vanished from her Homeland property and is nowhere to be found.

"He's gotten out a few times in the last 20 years, but people see him right away," she says of her tortoise, estimated to weigh at least 150 pounds and be 3 feet long and about 2 feet high. "He's so big and strange to people, and it's very surprising that not a single person seems to have seen him."

The family, especially daughter Grace, 9, is heartbroken, and combing the area to try and find their pet before winter.

While Tortley has pushed through the fence around the yard before, Roosevelt says she doubts he could have gotten through at his present size. She, Grace, and husband Ron Dworkin were out of town for two days last month and returned to find his normal bedding spot in their heated garage empty, with no sign of him--not a footprint, and not a dropping to be found anywhere. They put up signs that garnered a few calls about found tortoises, but none as large as Tortley, who can't climb stairs or into a vehicle but can walk as fast as a person in a hurry.

"He really likes people," Roosevelt says. "If he's out in the world, he's moving toward people, but he always then tries to find shelter. He's very reliable and always goes in his house."

Roosevelt thinks he may have been found or inadvertently rescued by someone who didn't know what to do with him -- her phone number was marked above his left leg in permanent market, she says, but may have faded by now.

"Some people take these creatures way out into the country," she says, but it's vital that he's found soon. "He can't survive the winter."

Tortley is tan and has square markings all over his shell, which has dark brown edges. He has large, strong front legs and will approach people and then back away if no treats appear. He will, though, follow someone wearing red shoes. "He thinks they're tomatoes," Roosevelt explains.

He does not make noises outside of breathing and a hissing sound if he retreats into his shell, and he's not dangerous.

Roosevelt and family are offering a cash reward for his return.

"We are very happy to do that," she says. "I don't want anyone to be so worried that they don't call. There will be no questions asked at all. We just want him back. We miss him very much."

Anyone who's seen Tortley is asked to contact the Falls Road Animal Hospital at 410.825.9100; the staff there knows him and he can be dropped off anytime. The address is 6314 Falls Road.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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