Giant tortoise makes a break for it, is soon in CHP custody

CHP Officers Bryson Brooks and Max Serleth, and giant tortoise Rufus
Officers Bryson Brooks, left, and Max Serleth carry Rufus, a giant tortoise, to their patrol car.
(CHP Buellton)

A pair of California Highway Patrol officers caught up with a tortoise on the run over the weekend and returned the escape artist to its owners, authorities said.

Officers received a call from a driver Sunday evening in the 1600 block of Edison Street in Santa Ynez reporting a turtle on the shoulder of the road, according to Officer Kevin McCool, a CHP spokesman. But by the time Officers Bryson Brooks and Max Serleth arrived, the critter was gone.

The Santa Ynez Animal Rescue center had picked the animal up, so officers headed there to meet him, McCool said. It turned out the “turtle” was actually a 150-pound giant tortoise.

Brooks and Serleth had to work together to hoist the creature and carefully place him in the back of their patrol vehicle. After the runaway was securely inside the vehicle, the officers drove slowly — very slowly — to Milton’s Mutts, another animal rescue center the tortoise called home.

“It’s a pretty unique situation,” McCool said. “The tortoise barely fit in the back of the patrol car.”


Officers later learned their rescue’s name was Rufus, an African sulcata tortoise, which can weigh up to 250 pounds.

Breann Hollon, Rufus’ owner, said in a Facebook post that he was a sneaky escape artist who wandered off from his 10-acre yard.

“We are constantly trying to stay ahead of his persistence to go for unsupervised walkabouts,” she said of Rufus. “He has a special barn stall with an attached sand yard he loves to bask in.”