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7-year-old helps runaway tortoise reunite with its family after nine months on the run

Posted at 7:32 PM, Jun 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-07 19:32:50-04

LENEXA, Kansas (KMBC) — In Lenexa, a runaway pet is finally back home. That pet — a 17-year-old tortoise who had been on the run for nine months.

Fredericka the tortoise lives in Lenexa with her owner Jan Langton. She has been her proud owner since 2015.

“I don't know why I like a tortoise, but I do,” Langton said. “They're kind of cool. They don't do any tricks or anything.”

But Fredericka does have a trick. The 17-year-old Russian tortoise is quite the escape artist.

Nine months ago, Langton gave Fredericka free roam of the fenced-in backyard. Langton checked the bolsters of the fence and made sure she couldn’t fit through them. Fredericka still found a way out.

"Apparently, she was more clever than me,” Langton said. “She found a gap underneath my bay window where she could just go. Hasta la vista, baby."

So, Jan started searching.

"I hit social media hot and heavy after I looked up and found that they can travel 18 miles a day,” she said. “I hit Facebook and all of the lost and found groups.”

Langton offered a $400 reward, hung up posters all over Johnson County, and even had a bloodhound search the woods behind her house.

“A herpetologist at Brookfield Zoo told me that she would die if it got to under 60 degrees. And he goes well, she might survive 37 or so if she got covered up a little bit. But for winter, she's going to have to go six feet under the ground because of the freeze line,” Langton said.

Langton had just about lost hope until May 20 of this year. Just a few houses down from Langton, 7-year-old Henry Miles spotted her.

“I was laying in the hammock and then I turned around and I saw the tortoise-like walking and my dad ran to get a bucket and he put her in there,” Miles said. "It looked like it wasn't from around here."

Miles had seen the posters and knew Fredericka had been missing. So, he and his parents gave Jan a call.

“I was at work, and they all thought I won the lottery because I yelled, Are you kidding me?” Langton said. “I was so happy and so shell-shocked because how was she going to live out there?”

Now, Langton is reunited with her tortoise and Miles got his $400 reward.

“Henry sat there and counted it all and he was so happy and [his] Mom later said that every time they’d go past the intersection, he’d say Tortoise lost $400 reward, he would say, that is a $400 tortoise. We need to find that $400 tortoise,” Langton said.

“$200 is going into savings and $200 is spent,” Miles said.

Fredericka didn’t make it back unharmed. She has scratches on her shell and her eye. Langton said the vet thinks she was attacked by a raccoon or a dog.