Rio Rancho Animal Control officers impounded the escapee – a large sulcata tortoise – which had been “secured” in the backyard of a concerned resident after the animal was found wandering near the 1400 block of 32nd Circle last week, according to a city news release.
The tortoise – also known as an African spurred tortoise, according to a website devoted to the animal – had been accidentally released.
The website describes it as the third-largest species of tortoise in the world and says it can grow to 2 to 3 feet and weigh over 100 pounds.
It also makes its home on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert – making it an exotic pet, and, in this case, a bit of trouble for the owner, who was cited for not having an exotic animal permit, the city release said.
Spike is the tortoise’s name, it turns out, and the 17-year-old got away after a gate was left partially open, the pet’s owner, Audrey, told KOAT-TV.
“I never thought he would take off that far,” the shell-shocked resident said. “He freaked me out when he did run away, so it kind of scared me. So I put up signs right away.”
Spike went down the street, made a left and ended up half a mile away.
“He was right here, right here, walking down the middle of the street, cars going around him,” Steve McCarty, a neighbor, told the TV station.
And the slowpoke seemed to enjoy stretching his legs.
“He was wandering down the road, happy as a clam,” said McCarty, who wasn’t totally taken aback. “In New Mexico, you see a lot of unusual things.”