Desert tortoise killed when it tries to cross Interstate 10


He (or she) was a tortoise, an enormous creature who spent his (or her) days meandering the desert.

They were travelers, clogging the interstate as they headed east as the weekend came to an end.

When their paths intersected, it didn’t end well.

On Sunday afternoon, which authorities describe as their rush hour on this stretch of Interstate 10 between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, a tortoise in the slow lane certainly caught drivers’ attention.


Shortly after 3 p.m., California Highway Patrol officials said they received dozens of calls from travelers, spotting (and dodging) the tortoise just west of a rest area near White Water. It was “gigantic,” the callers said, with some speculating that it weighed as much as 150 pounds.

By the time officers arrived, about 20 minutes after the deluge of calls, the tortoise was dead.

Heading north, the tortoise had made it to the second of four eastbound lanes, where it was struck by car. The driver had left the scene.

“I don’t know what his plan was,” Officer Darren Meyer, a CHP spokesman in the San Gorgonio Pass office, said of the tortoise. “He picked a poor day to cross our freeway.”

Authorities believe that the animal was most likely a desert tortoise, which populate the area, but were unsure of its age or sex. The carcass was collected Sunday by Caltrans.

How the tortoise was able to get there has authorities perplexed. The roadway is blocked in by a short concrete wall, and they figure the tortoise must have happened upon a break in the wall.

“They’re not very good jumpers,” Meyer said.

It was certainly an unusual circumstance.

Meyer has been in the highway patrol 15 years -- working almost exclusively in desert areas -- and he’s encountered plenty of incidents involving wild animals killed in auto accidents: black bears that wandered down from the mountains, cattle, coyotes, even eagles. There was also the time a bison had been hit.

“But never a turtle,” he said. “Never.”


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