How to Find a Lost Tortoise

It can be a very stressful experience when you lose your pet tortoise. The key is to stay calm and act fast. In today’s article, I will break down step by step how to find a lost tortoise.

How to find a lost tortoise

To find a lost tortoise, you must scan every inch of their enclosure looking for signs of digging. If you confirm your tortoise escaped, try to find where they escaped the perimeter, and start the search there.

If you still can’t find your tortoise, you should notify your neighbors and put up posters.

1st step: Scan their enclosure

I know it might sound trivial, but it is important that you start off by searching every inch of their enclosure. A lot of times tortoises will hide themselves under rocks or vegetation.

You should keep a close eye out for any signs of digging. There is a chance that your tortoise is still in the enclosure, and simply just dug a hole underground.

Tortoises will dig or “burrow” for a long list of reasons, including:

  • Regulate their body temperature
  • Hide from a threat
  • Lay eggs
  • Boredom

The main reason a tortoise will burrow is if the weather gets too hot or too cold. Therefore, if your weather recently changed, there is a good chance they are burrowed in a hole.

If you find a hole, carefully inspect it and try to see if it leads anywhere. While most tortoises just dig a couple inches into the ground, they have the ability to dig multiple feet into the ground. Unfortunately, there is a chance that your tortoise dug a hole and popped up outside of the enclosure.

Step 2: Try to identify point of exit

Once your confirm that your tortoise is outside of the enclosure, you should try to determine where they could have escaped the perimeter. If you find a hole in the border, or suspect a certain spot that they got through, you should start your search near that direction.

Luckily, tortoises aren’t the fastest animals, so there is a good chance that it hasn’t gotten too far.

Step 3: Look in covered areas

If your tortoise is on the loose, they will likely seek out covered areas. This means you should look in and around brushes, as well as next to large rocks. Your tortoise might sought out a source of water to drink or soak in. Therefore, it could be beneficial to check out any nearby streams or rivers.

You should try to get as many people possible to help you look for your tortoise, as multiple people can cover way more ground compared to one person.

Step 4: Wait for the morning sun

If you’ve already looked for hours or it’s starting to get dark, you should temporarily pause the search. Wait until the sun comes out the next morning, and then look for open exposed areas where your tortoise might be.

It is common for tortoises to go out into open area when the sun first comes out in the morning to bask and warm themselves up.

While it probably won’t lure them back, it doesn’t hurt to leave food and water out for your tortoise. If you do this, I suggest you leave out treats or your tortoises favorite food.

Step 5: Notify neighbors and put up signs

If you still haven’t found your tortoises, you should notify nearby neighbors. If they’ve never seen your tortoise, make sure they see a picture and know roughly how big it is.

It can also help if you put up posters around your neighborhood. Make sure you use an up to date photo of your tortoise.

What happened to my lost tortoise?

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know where your tortoise ended up. You should try to stay optimistic that it found a safe area and lived happily ever after. Even if your tortoise lived it’s entire life in captivity, there is certainly a chance that it could live on its own in the wild.

You should also not beat yourself up about them getting away. Most of the time, it’s not the owner’s fault. Just like any other captive animal, tortoises have a natural inclination to be free, and every now and again they are able to escape.

While tortoises do have some natural predators in the wild, there large shell is very hard to penetrate, so most animals won’t even try to eat it. That being said, you should make sure that you predator proof your tortoise’s outdoor enclosure.

What to do if you lost your tortoise inside?

If your tortoise escaped from an indoor tortoise enclosure, the good news is that it couldn’t have gone far. The first thing you should do is to put any dogs or cats in a different room to prevent them from catching your tortoise before you do.

Usually when tortoises escape when they’re indoors, they will seek spots that are hidden/covered. Therefore, you should look under couches, chairs, and any other furniture that they might fit under.

Be careful when walking around to make sure you don’t accidentally step on them.


I hope this article has given you some good ideas on how to find a lost tortoise.  As I explained above, the quicker you act, the better the chance you will find your tortoise.

It is important that you regularly check in on your tortoise throughout the day, so that you will know relatively quickly if they go missing.

If you do end up finding your tortoise, don’t be discouraged that they got out. It’s completely normal for a tortoise to want to be free. You might be scared to leave them outside again and might be considering bringing them into an indoor enclosure. I would suggest that you try to keep them outside, as this is much more similar to their natural habitat.

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