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Missing Turtle in Inwood HIll Park Hunted by Urban Park Rangers

By Carla Zanoni | December 2, 2011 3:57pm

INWOOD — Park Rangers are on the hunt for a missing eastern box turtle that very slowly made its way out of the Inwood Hill Park Nature Center this week.

It's the latest instances of escaped animals — like the Bronx Zoo cobra and the Central Park peacock — throughout the city this year. Staff at the Parks-based community and education center noticed the turtle was missing on Thursday and said the circumstances of its escape are "unclear."

“It is unfortunate that this native animal has gone missing and that the public is now deprived of the opportunity to view it at the Nature Center,” Urban Park Ranger Director Sarah Aucoin said in an email.

Rangers spent much of the day Thursday looking for the reptile, alerting active park users and groups to keep on the lookout for the slow moving creature. Officials did not immediately have a photo of the animal, but said it is appears to be a typical male eastern box turtle, which has bright red eyes.

Residents who heard of the great escape expressed concern for the turtle, which typically do not do well in colder weather.

Eastern box turtles are not known as biters, and grow to be between 6 inches and a foot long.

An Inwood mother posted a note about the turtle on a local parenting email list, writing that her toddler son had “grown attached” to the turtle and was worried about it.

“Apparently these turtles don't swim and do not fair well in the cold,” she wrote. “He is probably hiding in leaves somewhere to keep warm... if you're in the park please keep a look-out for the little guy.”

The eastern box turtle, part of the hinge-shelled turtle group, is native to the east coast and are easily identifiable by their bright markings, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife.

The turtles live on land and typically hibernate from late October or November until April when living outdoors, according to the wildlife group.

Rangers ask that anyone who comes across the turtle contact the nature center at 212-304-2365.