‘Big turtle’ found wandering down road in rural West Texas

A game warden found the large Sulcata tortoise just hanging out on the farm to market highway,” a report from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife said. (TPWD photo)
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SCHLEICHER COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) State game wardens are trained to expect unusual encounters with wildlife, and they experience their share, but encountering a large tortoise on a West Texas highway was one for the record books.

On Oct. 14 a game warden was notified that a resident had found a “‘big turtle’ in the middle of the highway on Toe Nail Trail (Farm to Market Road 2396),” and when the warden got to the scene, out in the middle of a very rural part of the county, “he discovered a large Sulcata tortoise just hanging out on the farm to market highway,” a report from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife said.

After an article was published in a local newspaper, several Facebook postings and phone calls, the game warden was able to locate the animal’s owner.

“Apparently, the large tortoise had escaped his enclosure by pushing on a weak spot of a fence and had been on the lam in the West Texas countryside for 10 days,” the report said.

The Sulcata tortoise is a land dweller, native to Africa and commonly called the African spurred tortoise, grows routinely to 20- to 30-inches -long and weighs up to 110 pounds, can live up to 70 years in captivity.

The website The Spruce Pets says the animals are quite, quite slow and “can easily get stuck in spaces that are too small for them, flip themselves over and be unable to right themselves,” and they “need a sturdy fence and since they burrow quite well, in an outdoor enclosure, the fence should be extended underground.”

Two teal too late

A Williamson County game warden, after receiving information about a social media posting of a woman pictured taking her first teal the previous weekend on Granger public land, was able to discover she lives in Hays County.

The game warden conducted a records check and found although she did have a valid hunting license, she had no hunter education recorded.

“When wardens contacted her at her residence and conducted a field interview, she denied shooting it the previous weekend and said it was shot the last weekend of teal season,” the TPWD news release said.

Her husband told the wardens they shot the bird two weekends earlier, but after more intensive interview finally admitted “taking out his waterfowl decoys to see if any teal would come in.

“The warden got a confession from both parties that they both took a teal each during closed season,” after which each was cited and later ordered to make civil restitution.

”I messed up,” hunter admits

Then a Llano County warden responded to a call from San Saba County Sheriff’s dispatch related to an on-going poaching incident.

A landowner claimed he witnessed someone shoot one of his red stag deer from the neighboring property.

Wardens gathered evidence at the scene and took photographs as evidence but were not able to locate the property owner for interview.

The next morning, game wardens returned to San Saba to meet with hunters who had been hunting in the area.

They identified one as having been hunting in the blind near the incident at the time it occurred.

The hunter told wardens he did not shoot across property lines and even provided a written statement supporting his claim.

But wardens noticed the hunter appeared nervous during the interview, and when they told him about the charges he faced, he “finally cracked and stated, ‘I messed up.’”

He then “confessed to shooting the red stag, even though he had already lawfully shot a doe on his property 45 minutes prior,” the news release said, and “he will be charged with hunting without landowner’s consent.”

Undercover camera leads to arrest of fence cutter

A game warden in the Panhandle received several complaints from a landowner that his fences had been cut.

Investigation showed the landowner had several fences cut, several times, and in an effort to discover what might be going on, the game warden set up an undercover camera on one of the county roads where the fence was most commonly cut, and on Sept. 28 the landowner called the wardens and told them that his fences had been cut in five different places.

When they watched the video the wardens noticed only one vehicle could be spotted during the suspected timeframe, and foot prints were found at each location where the fence was cut.

Further investigation led the wardens to the driver and he admitted to cutting the fences on separate occasions dating back to 2015.

The man told the wardens he was angry at the landowner “because he chose not to put wind turbines on his land and it made it harder on him in planning and building roads for the turbines on the neighboring properties,” the news release says.

“He also told the wardens that his company offered the landowner a good price to put them on his land and he should have participated like everyone else.”

The as the investigation continued the individual also admitted to hunting without landowner consent on two different occasions, along with burglary of a building.

In the end the man was charged with 10 counts of criminal mischief and burglary of a building, both state jail felonies, and two counts of hunting feral hogs without landowner consent, two counts of criminal trespass with a deadly weapon, both class A misdemeanors, and one count of possession of a protected species (owl talons), a class C misdemeanor.