The Saga of Scratchy

NolaBillie

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Sep 6, 2015
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21
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New Orleans
Get yourself a cup of tea. I'm not kidding about the "Saga" label.

Scratchy came into our home in January.
My son wanted a tortoise. He's a sensitive kid, likes animals that are kinda chill by themselves - birds and turtles, not cats or dogs. So he saved up for months, $1 at a time, switching the toy he was saving for several times until he decided he wanted a pet. After a little research I decided a red foot would be a good match for our house side and climate. I kept an iguana and anoles when I was a kid, so I knew some basic reptile husbandry (I'm under no illusion that my 6 year old will actually be caring for his pet
clip_image002.png
.) When he hit $100, I told him I would cover the rest.

We bought him at the local reptile shop in December, and let them hold him until we got back from holiday travel (which was really hard, because I could tell he was being kept too dry, in of course a tiny enclosure). Here he* is, before I figured out to feed him on a stone.
what.jpg
What are you looking at?

Typical hatchling, he was doing well. I let him have outside time usually every day in the spring (we live in New Orleans - imagine little post-stamp gardens for your lawn). Of course, this was healthy, and my ultimate undoing. On Easter, I went to check on him after about 30 minutes and - you guessed it - GONE.

After frantic looking and rending of clothes, we put up flyers around the neighborhood and knocked on doors. People thought we were nuts. A few days later I decided to try my hand at urban trapping. trap prototype.jpg
The prototype was usually disturbed in the mornings. One morning, totally F'ed up.

I began by setting out bits of banana peel between the houses, which usually got messed with in the night. Then I built a trap out of cardboard, loading it with banana/green mixes usually. One night it got totally clobbered, nothing Scratchy could've done. At this point I had crawled under the house, looked under our neighbors too (we have raised houses here, about 3' off the soil).

assembled.jpg
my husband and son testing out the real deal I made of wood.

The wooden trap worked, but also got upended one night. I suspect a mean raccoon that lives a block away. At this point, weeks had gone by and I gave into despair. We eventually got a new tortoise in mid May. uno.jpg
Uno.

Uno was a little tiny guy from the same pet shop. He was more skittish, less of an appetite than Scratchy. In the months since Scratchy's escape, I built a bullet-proof outdoor enclosure.

1.jpg
*not pictured, wooden/chicken wire top piece to discourage any rogue hawks.

I dug down every side several inches, putting barriers beneath what you can see. The back barrier is about 5" deep.

-Four months later -
In July, I got this in my mailbox:
found.jpg
Would you look at the quality of this flyer?! Chris is awesome.

OMG, you can imagine my screams of joy! Turns out Chris lives two yards away from us. Scratchy was so great, he didn't want to part with him. It was a miracle.

cuties.jpg
Not pictured, my crazy happy face.

I celebrated so loudly when I read the flyer my three year-old daughter started to cry! together.jpg
Life is good. Scratchy and Uno, together.

Scratchy had become quite a fatty in his rambling time. I couldn't believe how much he'd grown. And his appetite!! It was amazing.

But here's where the story darkens again. We left the torts with a family while we went camping for a few weeks in August (with a multi-page instructional sheet). When I picked up our lovely tort family, Uno looked TERRIBLE. I got him into a great herp. vet, but the outlook was grim. After a week in her hospital and some intensive care at home (when I thought he was doing better), we had to euthanize him in early September.

So late August held dark days for us. I was letting Scratchy into the pen mornings and evenings (too hot midday for the torts here in that setup). He obviously had a taste for plein air, and sometimes seeing him pacing the indoor enclosure made me anxious for evening outdoor time. Well, 30 minutes into one of these evening sessions, you guessed it - HE ESCAPED AGAIN.

2.jpg
WTH. 8" sheer sides. The chicken wire top was down of course.

The only thing I can think of is that Scratchy used tall grass?! We did the same thing - crawled under the house, looked in all the lawns. Problematically, the lawn between ours and Chris' (where I suspect he went) is unoccupied now. This means NO lawn maintenance. It's a real jungle.

So now we're without any tortoises. Can a miracle happen twice? I'm doing what I can to facilitate this, especially before winter evenings arrive. We've made a new trap, using it in conjunction with the little wooden one we reassembled (rain had ruined the wood glue from it's previous use). 4.jpg
Grass in the neglected lawn is super thick. There's nail heads along the top to discourage crawl-outs.

So here we are in mid-September, checking the traps twice a day. I found a grey mouse nibbling the peach I left the other day, so right now I'm a little discouraged about the evidence I've found of tortoise activity.

My heart is being filled with images of y'alls little and big torts. Thanks for putting up photos of your friends, and thanks for reading this very long post about Scratchy. If/when he returns, I'm changing his freakin' name to Houdini.
 

wellington

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So sorry for all your tortoise problems, specially the death. I would get ahold of the person that found him last time. Most likely he will be somewhere between your house and theirs. Strawberries are are fave of most torts and the red color attracts most torts too. Lay some out in the area between the two places. I would probably pic them up at night so the wild animals that could harm your tort are less likely to come for the food. Your tort will not be traveling at night, he will hunker down so there's no need for a trap or food to lay out then. Look in the a.m. When the sun comes out, he will want to warm up. Look under bushes, they seem to like filtered light more then just out in the open. Plus their enemies come from above, so they like cover. Good luck and yes it can happen again that you find him.
In the mean time, better pics of your enclosure so we can better help you escape proof it.
 

wellington

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Btw, that picture with your hand, an easy escape route for a tortoise. Ruff rock and wood and no where near high enough sides.
 

NolaBillie

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Joined
Sep 6, 2015
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New Orleans
Ahh! Ok, Wellington, thank you for the advice! Seriously, my enclosure was obviously NOT so great as I thought. So are you saying rough sided rock is bad? And how high should the sides be? It's between 7-8" at the lowest places now.
 

NolaBillie

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Sep 6, 2015
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New Orleans
Oh and Chris is on the job:) He was the first person I contacted, especially since I knew he had a soft spot for torts. We've gone into his yard and looked, nothing yet. But I'm still hopeful since in four months, there wasn't that much ground covered last time. At least none of my neighbors have dogs.
 

newCH

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So.FL
I hope you find Scratchy soon. I am afraid that when you do get him back he will need a very strong enclosure since he might try to escape again and he has had a taste of freedom.
I do feel for you, we have a red eared slider in a pond like container outside.
I was cleaning his container & put him in a temporary box. I looked away for a few minutes & he was gone. I looked around and couldn't find him. He was about 3 inches big then. My husband called from work & I abruptly told him, "Cant talk, I just lost the turtle in the yard, gotta go!" I found him a few hours later camouflaged under a bushy area under the edge of the fence.
He'd even dug himself into the dirt a bit, so he was not totally visible.
I was so happy to find him. He is now called Houdini.
I hope you find Scratchy. Best of luck ~
 

Scute Mob

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Sep 7, 2015
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Eastern CT
Best of luck finding your little guy! It is always heartbreaking to lose a pet, whether it be by disappearance or death. Don't give up, I hope to see that you eventually find him!
 

SouthernRFT

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Jun 29, 2015
Messages
53
Ahh! Ok, Wellington, thank you for the advice! Seriously, my enclosure was obviously NOT so great as I thought. So are you saying rough sided rock is bad? And how high should the sides be? It's between 7-8" at the lowest places now.
I keep all my little guys outdoors in tubs. Grab yourself a concrete mixing tub throw in some cypress mulch and some hides keep it damp and humid. Then cover the whole top in some hardware cloth mesh. Either build a wood frame and attach the wire or just cover it and leave excess to anchor down with bricks. Drill holes in the tub several small ones in case it rains and your not home so it can drain. also cover a portion for shade.

Otherwise if you want a more substantial enclosure get some lumber and build some nice high walls with 2x8s stacked two high with 4x4 posts in each corner and use some good exterior screws to tie it all together. I personally think the little ones are better off in smaller enclosures when they are young. Too many predators can nab them if left outdoors uncovered.

Good luck on finding him
 
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