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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is S.F. Museum's Filched Tortoise Ambling Around Half Moon Bay?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge Has Arthur the stolen tortoise found a new home? - DOM MOSUR
  • Dom Mosur
  • Has Arthur the stolen tortoise found a new home?
Last week we reported on Arthur, the 50-year-old California Desert Tortoise filched from San Francisco's Randall Museum. The middle-aged gentleman had been living at the museum since Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt were a hot couple -- and his keeper, Dom Mosur, worries for his well-being.

Sadly, Arthur is still missing from the Randall Museum. But, intriguingly, two witnesses swear they saw him ambling along the road -- 30 miles away in Half Moon Bay.

"Oh, I raced down to Half Moon Bay," said Nancy Ellis, the animal exhibit manager at the Randall Museum. "But we had no luck in recovering him."

It turns out, shortly after Arthur went missing in mid-month, a pair of cyclists cruising through Half Moon Bay were surprised to see "a great, big turtle on the road." They didn't know what to do, so they helped the slow fellow into the brush on the side of the pavement. "The next night they saw our tortoise had been stolen," said Ellis. "They swore it was the same animal."

When Ellis arrived in Half Moon Bay, she contacted the owner of the property the tortoise was last seen shambling onto. He was sympathetic -- but he owns 600 acres of land, and Arthur is only about the size of a shoebox. Other folks living in the area said they'd keep their eyes peeled for Arthur, too.

But strange animals crawling through Half Moon Bay is nothing new. It turns out, Ellis said, there's an exotic animal refuge in the vicinity, and the area is prime dumping ground for unwanted pets. While this is often limited to cats and dogs, you might trip over a Russian Tortoise or two.

Yet while Russian Tortoises have bumpy shells, one of the cyclists told Ellis the tortoise he picked up was smooth -- "just like an army helmet." That's a perfect description of Arthur, or any California Desert Tortoise.

At 50-odd years old and with 30 years of captive living, a turn in the wild would not be ideal for Arthur. But Ellis notes that Arthur was, at one time, certainly a wild tortoise before being turned in to her museum in the late 1970s. And he could do worse than living in Half Moon Bay.

If the tortoise in question was, indeed, Arthur, "He's in a place where there's plenty of water, plenty of grass, and plenty of hiding spots," she says. "The things that'd bother him the most would probably be humans -- and coyotes. But most people think even a coyote wouldn't bother him that much."

That being said, she still wants him back. If you see Arthur -- or know his whereabouts -- call Ellis at (415) 554-9605.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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