OAKHURST — Coming home from work around 5 p.m. last week, Anne Grandy’s eyes scanned the road, watching for the usual hazards of deer and drivers, when she spotted one that stood out against the late summer landscape. Anne was on Road 425B heading toward Still Meadow when, there on the right, clipping along toward Deadwood, was a tortoise.
How did she know it was a tortoise? It turns out that Anne’s son is a herpetologist — that is, one who studies reptiles and amphibians. She’s had a tortoise or two in her time, but instantly the U.S. Forest Service admin knew this one was different, and not just because it was heading for the hills.
She pulled over as soon as she could, trying not to block the road.
“I had a box in my car and was able to pick him up and put him in the box and drive him home,” Anne says. “He seems very friendly; he seems like somebody’s pet. He is not too shy, he’ll walk around and eat out of your hand if you dare to do that.”
He, he, he. How does she know it’s a he? Back to her herpetologist son, Dylan Mignogna of San Clemente. Anne sent Dylan a photo and video, and he responded with a wealth of information about the roaming reptile.
“He is a leopard tortoise from Africa and has been identified as a male,” Anne explains. “He’s old enough to be breeding age because he has the concave shell on his belly and the tail is very fat and those are indicators of a male. He could be 20 to 40 years old.”
Anne picked up her surprise passenger more than a week ago, and has posted signs near the bridge and missives on social media, but she has yet to hear from the would-be escapee’s human companion. There was a nibble of hope that she’d found the owner, but that vanished upon examination of the details.
Speaking of nibbling, what has Anne been feeding this voracious visitor?
“Brussel sprouts, kale, pear cactus, rose, and squash.” This tortoise is healthier than most humans with a diet like that. No wonder it could live to be 80 to 100 years old.
It’s clear that Anne is a welcoming person, but she wants this creature to continue his sojourn without her, ideally by being routed back to his rightful owner.
“He will not be happy here during the winter. He needs a heat source at night and on really cold days. This breed does not hibernate, and it does not want to be below 60 degrees.”
So far Anne and her husband Jeff have made a cozy accommodation out of their woodpile, and Jeff has built a box so the tortoise can hide, because they like that, she says. They put tarps up to keep it warmer in the ad hoc environment, but the herpetologist son says the tortoise will get sick if it doesn’t move to a warmer place soon.
The Grandys are not looking for a foster situation, because that’s been pre-arranged should it become necessary. Anne wants to find out whose tortoise this is, exactly.
“I cannot understand. It just seems like maybe he has wandered so far that he’s not from our area. They can travel. Who knows where he is from? Maybe somebody doesn’t even know he is missing,” she says, hard as that is to imagine.
If the owner does come forward he, she, or they will have to identify the creature specifically. And there is one more thing.
“His name is Pilgrim because he is on a journey.”