Missing La Jolla tortoise returns home with no tale to tell
BY SHELLI DEROBERTIS
When Silver was discovered missing from the yard on Linda Rosa Avenue on June 22 when the Dykstra family returned from vacation, Theodore Dykstra, 12, moved at a hare’s pace to pass out fliers to help find his family’s lost desert tortoise, which is about nine-inches wide.
He and a friend went door-to-door and throughout the neighborhood, but no one had seen the tortoise, said Theodore’s mother, Michelle Dykstra.
But then a surprise came on June 26.
“Four days later Silver was found sitting in the middle of the driveway,” she said.
The Dykstra family owns four tortoises, and Silver is one of two California Desert Tortoises they care for, along with a pair of a larger tortoise species, the African Sulcata.
According to Michelle, the desert tortoises were found abandoned four years ago in a vacant rental house in City Heights. Someone who knew that the Dykstra’s already had two tortoises, thought they might be interested in rescuing the homeless reptiles.
“They brought us these two cute California Desert Tortoises,” Michelle said, adding that she obtained permits from the state to care for them.
According to the San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society: “Desert Tortoises may be legally possessed in California only under the authority of a permit issued by the California Department of Fish and Game.”
The society also offers micro chipping for tortoises, and upon learning this, Dykstra said it was good news.
She said her 85-pound tortoise has identification bonded to his shell with special glue.
The Dykstra’s said their tortoises are full of personality that would rival any canine or feline pet.
“When people come to my house they’re amazed,” said Matthew Dykstra, 9.
A video the family posted to YouTube shows their largest tortoise walking quickly out of the bushes after being summoned, in the clip titled, “My Tortoise Thinks He’s a Dog,” at
As for Silver, they are happy he is home. “I think he somehow climbed up over a rock wall (and escaped),” Michelle said.
While he was gone, the family worried that he was hungry and in danger of being hit by a car.
Tortoises feast on plenty of fruits and vegetables, and Theodore said if someone is in the backyard with painted toenails, “they try to eat the toes thinking they’re strawberries.”