WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – A central Ohio woman said she is in desperate need of the community’s help to find her two giant land tortoises who have gone missing.
Julie Gregory believes they accidentally got out of their safe enclosure at her home in the Sunbury Lake neighborhood off Sunbury Road near Easton Town Center, and with the frigid temperatures, time becomes crucial in saving her beloved reptiles.
Meet Bella and Berry, two giant Sulcata Tortoises Gregory rescued nearly a decade ago. She said Berry has become quite popular in central Ohio.
“And I take him to schools, and to Comfest,” Gregory said. “He walks around a lot, so people know him from there.”
Weighing in at 78 pounds and 40 pounds, the reptiles usually dwell in a large fenced-in enclosure with a heated barn outside Gregory’s home.
“I think that the heavy winds that we had right before we got the snow dump blew a gate off of a hinge and then that allowed that gate to open a little,” she said.
And these African nomadic tortoises like to roam and are surprisingly quick.
“So, they probably saw an opportunity and went out not realizing that we’re in Ohio and are going to get a huge snow dump and freezing temperatures,” Gregory said.
The hunt is now on to find and rescue these two wandering tortoises, with the Ohio Division of Wildlife organizing about 20 volunteers to search on foot.
“We’ve had a drone with infrared come out,” Gregory said of the search effort. “We’ve had a couple of people offer their search dogs.”
She said they could really be anywhere.
“If they were able to get shelter, they would be under someone’s deck, under their big pine trees, in a mulch pile, in a leaf pile,” Gregory said.
If Bella and Barry found shelter, Gregory said, they could possibly hibernate and survive the winter, but the frigid temperatures could harm the animals.
“They literally can’t move, they’re paralyzed, they’re not going to be able to move anywhere, and you would just see them out in the open,” she said.
As they continue to scour the region with a drone, Gregory is asking for the community’s help.
“If they show up at or shop or on a pet listing site or something, we really would love people to pay attention,” she said. “We’re offering a really large reward, no questions asked, for their return.”
They’re offering a $500 reward for the missing tortoises. If you happen to spot them, call 216-777-4000.