Giant tortoise spotted roaming in Portsmouth

Photos courtesy Ryan Higginbotham

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A giant tortoise was spotted on the loose in Portsmouth over the weekend.

A WAVY viewer shared photos on Sunday of the tortoise, named Sampson. It was a sight to see.

“I immediately threw my car in park and got out,” said Wendy Ford, who saw Sampson.

She was worried about a vehicle versus tortoise accident, so she jumped out of her car and stopped traffic.

“I had no hesitation, I didn’t care what it was,” Ford said. “It wasn’t supposed to be there and it was a living and breathing creature.”

Ford called Portsmouth police, who arrived with Animal Control.

Officer Brenda Quintana said, “I arrived on scene and I found a very large turtle, about 90-pound turtle which turned out to be 22-year-old Sampson.”

Even at 22, Sampson is fairly young — his breed of tortoise can live more than 100 years. Officer Qunitana says he’s a sulcata tortoise, which a common pet-store breed. It’s legal to have one, but she says anyone has to be careful with an animal that size.

“He’s got that powerful shell. He’s got 90 pounds behind him, too so he’s going to move whatever’s in his way,” said Quintana.

Sampson did just that — moving two fences while on his Sunday afternoon adventure.

“That thing was not slow, okay? He was moving rapidly, pretty fast,” said Ford. “I wasn’t scared of him, but I didn’t want to get in his way, either.”

It took about three hours to get Sampson with Animal Control. He spent the night with the Humane Society before being reunited with his owners.

As for Ford, she’s just hoping she can see her new friend again, even offering to take him on a walk.

“He was an amazing creature,” Ford said. “I really do hope to go visit with him.”

Portsmouth Animal Control says if you see a turtle or tortoise walking the streets to let it go, unless it’s in danger. If that’s the case, like it could have been with Sampson, give them a call.