200-year-old tortoise killed crossing California roadway

desert tortoise photo
CC BY 2.0 U.S. Army Environmental Command

Not long after Lewis and Clark first carved out a path through the uncharted West that multitudes would later retrace, a tiny desert tortoise emerged from its egg somewhere in the still wild lands of California. Over the centuries that followed, the region's population grew and grew, and through it all so did that tortoise.

But this weekend, the tortoise, originally estimated to be 200 years old (though its age is uncertain), had what was quite likely its first, and sadly its last encounter with these relatively new arrivals on the landscape.

According to California Highway Patrol, dozens of drivers called to report sightings of a "humongous" animal crossing Interstate 10 near the city of Whitewater on Sunday. By the time authorities arrived, however, the aged tortoise had been struck by an automobile -- one of many modern inventions it predates by decades.

In an interview with The Desert Sun, herpetologist Robert Lovich says that, while it's not possible to determine the tortoise's exact age or history, it was "exponentially older than it probably should be." Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the old tortoise was one of nature's most epic survivors -- and that a natural end would have been much a more befitting one.

It is estimated that 1 million animals are struck and killed by cars each day on roadways across America.

UPDATE: The Desert Sun has issued a correction stating that the tortoise's age and weight "may have been more of a guesstimate than actual fact", adding that the animal was likely decades old, and not centuries old as was previously reported.

200-year-old tortoise killed crossing California roadway
This animal, one of nature's longest-lived creatures, fell victim to an invention it predates by decades.

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