The police offers who discovered the reptile knew she was someone's pet because she liked "people and head pats"
After stopping a tortoise from crossing a busy road, Florida police officers learned that the animal was an escaped pet who had been missing for over three years.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office first shared the story of the tortoise's rescue on Saturday in a Facebook post titled "CLEARLY YOU AIN'T FROM AROUND HERE" in an effort to find the critter's owner.
"Earlier today, our deputies came across an unusual-looking tortoise attempting to cross SR 20 in Interlachen," the post read. "Turns out he's an African Sulcata, which are native to the southern edge of the Sahara Desert."
The sheriff's office wrote that Florida's Wildest Animal Refuge agreed to take "our large friend."
According to wildlife experts at the refuge, tortoises of this particular species "are known escape artists and can dig out of their enclosures."
"He is definitely someone's tortoise as he likes people and head pats," the authorities shared on social media, asking the creature's owner to come forward — and for some help identifying the reptile's sex.
"Anyone looking for a tortoise for a pet, this fella is not up for adoption," the post continued. "If he is not positively claimed, the refuge has agreed to give him a home."
On Sunday, after the adventurous tortoise's owner came forward, the sheriff's office updated its original post.
"Owner found! This really was an escape artist," the update read. "Our African Sulcata went missing in 2020!!!"
According to the update, the tortoise is female ("Yes, we found out he is actually a she!") and was found quite close to her home.
Despite this, the post said she is in "a little rough shape" because of the "cold winters" she endured away from her family.
Florida's Wildest Animal Refuge, who took care of the missing tortoise temporarily, shared a bit more back story about the "escape artist" on Sunday.
"A truly unbelievable story, it just goes to show you to never give up hope!" the refuge wrote in a Facebook post.
After the sheriff's office's post about the reptile was shared "hundreds of times," someone sent the refuge a post about a similar-looking tortoise who went missing from the same area in April 2020.
"I was able to compare photos I took to the original post, and It turns out it was the same tortoise!" the refuge wrote. "She was missing for 3 1/2 years and found 5 miles away from where she originally escaped."
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The refuge echoed the sheriff's office, writing, "She is in a little bit of rough shape from spending so many cold winters here without heat, but she will be okay, and we recommended a trip to the vet."
"What a happy ending!" the post concluded. "We are so happy we were able to assist in reuniting her with her family!"
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