Speedy wasn’t speedy, and he wasn’t in the right place.
But the 20-pound desert tortoise was on his way to an appropriate habitat Thursday after being rescued by a Coeur d’Alene student and her teacher.
Nicole Garrett, an eighth-grader at Canfield Middle School, found the reptile in her yard a few days ago and asked her teacher if it could be a classroom pet. Deanne Rutherford said yes. But when she saw Speedy, she realized he wasn’t an ordinary turtle.
He was a foot long and weighed 20 pounds.
“We have no idea where he came from,” Rutherford said.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game referred her to Carl Nellis, a Fish and Game regional supervisor in Jerome who has a special interest in tortoises. Based on Rutherford’s phone description, he was pretty sure that’s what Nicole had found.
Desert tortoises are a protected species and illegal to own. But Nellis said he’d be glad to include Speedy with the other tortoises that he uses for research.
So Rutherford put the creature in a box with a blanket and drove to Spokane. She put Speedy on a bus to Boise, where Nellis is attending a meeting and agreed to pick up the tortoise at the station.
The bus driver agreed to let the animal ride up front, where it would stay warm.
Tortoises can live to be 100. Speedy looks to be 20 to 40 years old.
Canfield teachers turned Speedy’s short visit into a lesson about protected animals.