Deputy helps save tortoise wedged under car

Gopher tortoise walks away unharmed

Deputy Steve Williams and Jerry the gopher tortoise.
Deputy Steve Williams and Jerry the gopher tortoise.

BUNNELL, Fla. – A gopher tortoise that was caught in a hard place got a little help from a Flagler County deputy recently.

Julie Tallaksen, of Bunnell, was backing out of her garage, on her way to visit her mother in the hospital when she heard a loud noise under her car.

She originally thought she had hit a children's toy, but when she looked under the car, she saw a large gopher tortoise, nicknamed Jerry, that's known to frequent her yard, according to a news release.

She didn't know how to free the reptile without killing it. Tallaksen thought her best bet was to call the Flagler County Sheriff's Office non-emergency line. 

Communications specialist Danielle Brown dispatched Deputy Steve Williams to the scene. 

It took about 15 minutes of Tallaksen strategically moving her vehicle and Williams crawling under the car before Jerry was finally free. 

“That turtle was so happy to be freed," Williams said. "It stuck its head out as if to say, 'Thank you.'"

The gopher tortoise escaped mostly unscathed, with only a few scratches and scuffs on its shell. The animal is estimated to be at least 50 years old and weigh 25-30 pounds. 

“That’s the biggest gopher turtle that I’ve seen, personally, and I was raised in Florida,” Williams said.

Gopher tortoises are classified as a threatened species, which means they are protected under state law to try to prevent the population from dwindling any further.

Tallaksen wrote an email to Sheriff Rick Staly to praise Brown and Williams.

“Danielle Brown went above and beyond her duty to locate Deputy Williams to try to help me. Deputy Williams made it a priority to get to my home to help,” Tallaksen wrote. “When he arrived, he knew immediately that this tortoise was stuck and in danger. I didn't think the tortoise was alive, but when Deputy Williams picked him up, he popped his head out and was put on the grass and he walked away, unharmed.”

Staly also commended their efforts. 

“I’m very proud of our employees and I know they were committed to helping solve this problem," Staly said. "We care about our community, even the four-legged residents."

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