Lost turtle survives winter to be reunited with owner 10 months later

Mikey — as her owners call her — has always been a little mischievous, but she pulled one of her greatest stunts yet this winter.Mikey the turtle is back at home after getting lost 10 months ago. (Submitted by Hailey Pudan)A red-eared slider turtle that is more at home under the blistering hot Florida sun than in Newfoundland’s foggy, wet weather was able to survive possibly one the province’s harshest winters, while being lost for nearly a year. Mikey — as her owners call her — has always been a little mischievous but she has pulled one of her greatest stunts yet.After escaping her cage on a warm day last August, she has recently been reunited with her family. “It’s a miracle that Mikey is alive,” said Hailey Pudan, Mikey’s owner. “I guess you can say [she’s] a survivor.” All started with a nap The rescue turtle was brought to Newfoundland at the end of July after Pudan and her daughter made the trek from Ontario to their new home in Carbonear.  Pudan, who was travelling to the province with a number of animals, was exhausted after putting all her pets away in their new homes and went down for a nap.  When she went out to check on her turtles, who had been sunbathing in their cage, she noticed Mikey was gone. The three rescue turtles ready to move from Ontario to Newfoundland. (Submitted by Hailey Pudan) That scenario wasnt totally out of the ordinary, as the turtle often buries herself in flower pots around Pudan’s home. But after putting up some flyers and speaking with nearby neighbours Pudan and her daughter still couldn’t find Mikey. “It was such a heartbreak … coming to Newfoundland, we lost the turtle,” said Pudan “We were both crying, we were so upset and in shock.” A welcomed tip  Pudan said as she was asking people if they’d seen Mikey, she kept hearing about a Facebook page called NL Lost Pets Network, an online group for people who are searching for missing animals.  She was skeptical at first but in January she decided to give it a shot and soon after she received a tip about a turtle in a pond located close to her home.   The issue of course is the turtle was underwater, hibernating.  “We were all excited as could be, but it’s the middle of winter. At least we knew the turtle went somewhere, but now what?” And then January’s historic blizzard hit.  Pudan said both her and her daughter were becoming less and less hopeful that Mikey would be alive as the winter got worse but in April, they received a message that a turtle had resurfaced.  Mikey sunbathing with his brother Donney and another rescue turtle. (Submitted by Hailey Pudan) Now in the middle of a global pandemic, Pudan said it made getting Mikey even harder but on June 18th, more than 10 months after Mikey went missing, they were able to bring their turtle back home. “We go to the house and, yep, there’s Mikey sitting on a rock. They walked right up to Mikey, picked her up and brought her home,” she said. “I was just like ‘holy smokes buddy, you made it.’ I was so thankful, I was so appreciative of the people who gave their little input as to where Mikey might be.” Pudan said although alive, Mikey has suffered infections to her eyes and is currently being treated. Impressive but not impossible “I think it’s really interesting,” said Sean Boyle, a postdoctoral researcher at Memorial University who studied reptiles while getting his PhD. There are no native turtles on the island and therefore Boyle said there’s not much evidence to go by, but that doesn’t mean turtles can’t survive in cold winter conditions.  He said the turtle would have possibly burrowed into the mud at the bottom of the pond where the water didn’t freeze and gone into a period of dormancy called brumation, where the turtle’s metabolism slows, it doesn’t eat or really even use oxygen. “The reason it’s able to adapt to other places is because during the winter, no matter how cold it is outside, the water underneath the ice layer will hover just above zero. It will be that temperature almost no matter where you are.”  As for the blizzard, Boyle said it likely did not have much of an impact on Mikey. Boyle said red-eared slider turtles have become common pets across the world, but with an age span of up to 80 years, they are increasingly being released into the wild, making them an invasive species. “Having a turtle as a pet is a very, very long-term commitment, I think a lot of people don’t recognize that fact when they get a turtle,” he said.  ‘A lifetime commitment’ That’s why Pudan said she rescued Mikey and her brother Donney in the first place — someone didn’t want them anymore.  Donney died while Mikey was away, Pudan believes of a broken heart. Pudan said it’s a “lifetime commitment” to take care of a turtle, which was something both her and her daughter signed up for. She said they don’t have close relatives and considered the turtles a part of their family.  “Since [my daughter] was a toddler, I would teach her, let’s help somebody, let’s help something.” “So we would always pick up an animal or two that were in need of a home and we would promise to take care of them right up until the end.” Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
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