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Big Tige missing: Elderly turtle lost, reward offered

July 15, 2009
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesElderly people wandering off can be a concern. Although there isn’t an alert system for missing 80-plus-year-old desert tortoises, Big Tige’s owners are still hoping the public will help them find her.On July 6 Judy Klement had opened the big gate at her West Main Street home to take out green recyclables headed for the refuse bin when her husband Walt called out she had a telephone call. “It was a person needing some information,” and Judy said when she hung up she continued to be sidetracked from her recycling chore.A while later Walt noticed the gate was open and Big Tige - who was already a household fixture when Walt was born - was gone. “Walt’s parents had the turtle when he was a kid... he inherited the turtle in 1985 when his father passed away,” and Judy said Walt inherited the property where he grew up and the turtle.“That turtle has been living in the backyard here just about all its life.” The couple has other turtles and Walt had taken precautionary measures to seal the yard.Big Tige doesn’t quite live up to her name: “She’s close to 11 inches long,” said Judy. “I measure them each year and keep turtle stats,” which notes Big Tige weighs in at about 7.5 pounds.“She’s not a giant turtle, but not a baby turtle... and although Big Tige is up in age, she had a young male suitor,” the 10-year-old Beau, “who started her hormones raging!” The turtle version of “lust in the dust” led last year to Big Tige laying seven eggs “the size of golf balls.”But, Judy said, “because Big Tige has a bad rear leg, she cannot fully raise her shell” and, well, you get the picture... let it suffice to say her intended lover was unable to fertilize the eggs. “Her suitor is oversexed,” and Judy admits to having proof via “some interesting pictures of them.”Big Tige is the “color of dirt; that is their camouflage and you’re not supposed to wash them... it’s part of their ability to protect themselves.” The camouflage works so well it is almost impossible to spot the desert tortoise, and Walt and Judy meticulously searched and researched their large property without finding Big Tige.
Judy said their turtles’ life expectancy could exceed 100 years. “We already have people in our family who - when we kick off - will be happy to take the turtles.”Big Tige and the other three turtles have been living a good life. “Our backyard is a natural salad bar” for the “vegetarian little creatures,” who are also treated to corn, bananas and watermelon.Big Tige, noted Judy, is a “very gentle little creature... she sometimes would follow Walt around, and he really misses her. Turtles are enchanting, have own little tricks and personality traits,” which in Big Tige’s case includes jealousy.When Beau was attracted to another turtle, Sparky, “when Big Tige saw that she smacked her like ‘You little hussy you!’ It was like a three-ring circus.”The Klements notified SPPD Animal Control Officer John Dunn about Big Tige being, well, probably not on the run but on the crawl, and the couple is offering a $200 reward for their pet’s return. If you find Big Tige, call Judy or Walt at 525-3411.“We are longing to find this gentle creature,” said Judy. “We all miss her,” except perhaps for Sparky.