Turtle Sighted on a Brooklyn Subway Platform: Could This Be Lionel, Inwood Hill Park's Missing Box Turtle?

Dean Olsher, the former host and creator of The Next Big Thing on public radio, now a grad student in music at Queens College, was at the Atlantic-Pacific Street subway stop in Brooklyn yesterday at about 4:30 p.m. when he saw something strange. A turtle was on the platform, "freaking out and trying to hide underneath the benches." There was a cardboard box nearby. The video above, which he took, shows the turtle wandering about on the platform.

Olsher tells us he asked three MTA conductors to call Animal Control. Instead, NYPD showed up, and he says, "It went downhill from there." He suggested that he himself take the turtle and release it in the park, and was allowed to pick it up and put it in the box. After that, however, Olsher says one of the cops reached out and grabbed him, then told him they had to wait for a supervisor. There was another bystander, Olsher says, who was a lawyer and explained he didn't have to stay. Why all this, for a lost turtle? "I think by getting the supervisor they were trying to cover themselves. I'm not going to go to jail for a turtle! This is ridiculous."

Prior to the interaction with the cops, someone on the platform had mentioned the "missing turtle in the news," meaning Lionel, the box turtle that's been missing from Inwood Hill Park since December 1. Olsher reports that the turtle on the platform was "small, like a box turtle, and had a red stripe." Of course, we are not zoologists; we also don't know whether the subway turtle had the red eyes consistent with the species. But whether or not it's Lionel, it's a turtle on a subway platform.

Olsher told us the bystander who'd been involved on the platform spoke to a park ranger later that night who said it was "unlikely the turtle would have walked to Brooklyn." Stranger things have happened (see Willow the cat) -- who, it turns out, was actually carried by someone human.

What happened to maybe-Lionel? Olsher says the last he saw, the cops had the turtle in the box. He'd been there about an hour and a half at that point, and left.

We contacted the Parks Department for the latest on Lionel's whereabouts and will update when we hear back. We also contacted the NYPD to see what became of the turtle in the box, and whether they had any comment on what happened yesterday. The person we spoke to hadn't heard anything about reports of "a turtle [or any animal, he said] in transit" but is looking into the incident. The MTA hadn't heard anything about a turtle on the subway, either, though a spokesman told us, "That looks like a red-eared slider turtle."

Meanwhile, Lionel hasn't Tweeted since December 13...does this mean he's out of range? Lionel! Come home.

Previously: Where's Lionel? The Search for a Missing Box Turtle
Related: Did You Lose Your Chicken in Downtown Brooklyn?

[JDoll / @thisisjendoll]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.


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8 comments
Cgeistweidt
Cgeistweidt

Is he up 4 adoption?

Ellen Emmerich
Ellen Emmerich

What do you do when you find a turtle on a subway platform? Call the police? NO.

Please be kind to wildlife and wayward or kidnapped pets. Most turtles cannot deal with cold temperatures for very long. So, please:1) Get a bag or box and carefully scoot the turtle into the container.2) Immediately call or take the turtle to a nearby or local vet. Most veterinarians will have the names of the right kind of wildlife rehabilitators in your area.3) Feel good that you helped a living creature.4) Do NOT let it loose in your backyard!5) The NY Turtle and Tortoise Society has a list of vets who treat turtles.http://nytts.org/nytts/helpnet...Thank you. And if anyone has more/better information please feel free to correct this. 

Eastern Box Turtles (this little guy is NOT one of them) need your help as do all turtles!

MikeHavenar
MikeHavenar

Poor turtle! Having to hear all that subway noise. I hope one of the cops had enough sense to take him home and loose him in the yard. They eat snakes.

NYturtleRehabber
NYturtleRehabber

Hi Mike,  I agree, the subway is loud and probably frightening, but I think the dangers of being stepped on, run over by a train, dehydration, starving, freezing... all much scarier to the poor turtle.  I suspect someone had the good sense and heart to take him home and hopefully give him a good home.  They don't actually eat snakes.   Sliders eat fish, aquatic bugs and plants, frogs, carrion.

NYturtleRehabber
NYturtleRehabber

That is a red-eared slider turtle.  Not a box turtle.  All turtles in NY should be in hibernation at this time of year, and the box found next to the turtle is its likely source... most likely this was an unwanted pet that someone abandoned in a poor choice of location.  but, honestly, nothing surprises me.  hopefully someone involved found this turtle a good home.  red-eared sliders, while found in many NY waterways now, are not actually native and are an introduced species.  this one was most likley a pet, and should not be released to the wild, but found a good, responsible home.

aa
aa

Just about any young boy growing up in the rural southern states can tell the difference between these two highly dis-similar species. For one thing, their respective shapes are completely different; box turtles have a tall, rounded, flat-topped shell -- rather than the flattish, sharply ridged one shown in the video. If you stop the video at 0:18, you can see a faint red stripe -or "ear"- directly behind its eyes. (and not all sliders even have red "ears") These turtles generally hate being out of water (or at least within jumping distance to it) while box turtles hate being in water (and if forced to swim, will dog-paddle to the nearest shore and quickly climb out) 

Their one thing in common, fortunately, is that neither species bites, so they can be picked up and carried off easily by most anyone.

It's funny how these NYC cops react. Farther south, these turtles can be as common as park squirrels - just about every pond is filled with them - and a typical police reaction might be something more along the lines of "You mean you called me over here just for THAT?". 

Brendan A. MacWade
Brendan A. MacWade

That's a red eared slider. Someone find that guy a loving home (and a warm tank!)

spokesturtle
spokesturtle

i have 2 red eared sliders and they don't look like that one. that looks like a box turtle to me- they live on land and sometimes - in the winter they hibernate . they are native tothe southern u.s.. i can't tell what type of box turtle from the picture. my re slidershave lived here-in a pond in my garden in california for at least 15 years. they are flatter and darker than the turtle in the photo. they are getting ready to chill out for awhile-untilthe temp in their water rises to comfort level they need. they can live for awhile on land, but they eat in the water so water is pretty important. also, they are escape artists- they will scamper away fast and they also dig depressions in the soil and hide there. turtles are are a threatened species and living proof of the age of the world- they are an ancientand important member of our environment. i hope this one gets to complete his stay on earth in his own good time.  

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