LENEXA, Kan. (WDAF) — A runaway tortoise has found its way back home, all thanks to a 7-year-old Kansas boy.
Fredericka, a 17-year-old Russian tortoise, had been gone for nine months, owner Jan Langton told Nexstar’s WDAF, noting that it’s incredible that she survived through the winter.
For eight years, Langton kept her pet tortoise in a pen.
“And I thought, gosh, she could have the whole backyard,” Langton said. “So, I took her, and I tried to put her through every banister, sideways and that way – she couldn’t get out – not possible.”
Fredericka took her newfound freedom too far and traveled outside the fence.
“I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Langton recounted.
She took to Facebook and posted flyers throughout the neighborhood. Lots of people offered help, but couldn’t put their finger on the right reptile.
“And they go, is this her? And they’re holding a snapping turtle and I’m like, no, you can put the snapping turtle down now.”
Another Lenexa neighbor brought over a bloodhound to walk through the woods filled with ticks and critters, but the search turned up empty.
Until nine months and 15 days later.
“I found it,” Henry Miles, 7, said. “I said, ‘Dad, there’s the tortoise.'”
In May, they mowed two feet of grass, and the 7-year-old made the spot, only five doors down from Fredericka’s home.
“And then [my dad] grabbed a bucket and then put him in there, and then we took him to the tortoise lady, and then I got my reward,” Henry said.
“He saw her rear end going right in,” Langton said.
It’s unclear how Fredericka survived the winter months, an unlikely feat for a tortoise. A herpetologist told Langton that on rare occasions, tortoises can survive 37-degree temperatures if they’re burrowed at least six feet underground.
“If I could figure out a safe way to put a GPS tracker on her, I would,” Langton said.
While out in the wild, Langton said she believes Fredericka fought off a raccoon and has the scars on her shell and eye to prove it.
She has brighter days and lots of blueberries ahead — Russian tortoises can live to be 100.
For his find, Miles received a $400 reward, half of which he put in the bank. The other half was spent on soccer cards, Legos, and a cookie.