Pet tortoise trouble leads to electrifying rescue

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It took crews hours to rescue Nick. (Source: SRP) It took crews hours to rescue Nick. (Source: SRP)
Although he was hungry and a bit dehydrated, Nick was no worse for his adventure. (Source: SRP) Although he was hungry and a bit dehydrated, Nick was no worse for his adventure. (Source: SRP)
A backhoe was required for the rescue operation. (Source: SRP) A backhoe was required for the rescue operation. (Source: SRP)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Forget about saving the cat stuck in a tree. That's easy compared to digging a massive African tortoise out of its burrow.  A Valley utility company had to do just that after the pet tortoise got stuck on high-voltage power lines 5 feet underground.

Photos: SRP crew rescues trapped tortoise

The Dunn family from Chandler owns five African spurred sulcata tortoises. 

"They've been around for millions of years, and they spend the day underground and then at nighttime they come up to eat," Michael Dunn said.

But for several nights in a row, the Dunns' 100-pound male tortoise named Nick didn’t come up from his burrow.  A couple days underground wouldn’t be unusual, but after five days without seeing Nick the Dunns decided to check on him.

"I crawled in this hole… and I saw him under the wires," said Steven Dunn, Michael’s son.  “It was really overwhelming.  I didn't think the hole went that far.  I thought it was right here but it just kept going."

Nick had burrowed under the cement block fence and was stuck under heavy SRP high-voltage power lines – 5 feet underground.

 The Dunns called SRP.

"One gentleman showed up and he goes, 'You gotta be kidding me,'" Michael said.

SRP called in a full crew. Although they were already operating on overtime, they decided they had to save Nick.  They brought in sonar equipment, a backhoe and a dirt vacuum and started digging.

"This thing took hours," Michael said. "It started at 6 and went until about 11."

He's grateful for the hard work put in by the SRP crew.

"It was pretty funny," Dun said. "After a while neighbors started coming out and they all gathered and they're like, 'Are you guys trying to find a dead body?  What's going on?'  We’re like, ‘No, we just lost a turtle.'"

Slow and steady won the rescue.  

Crews eventually pulled a tired, hungry and dehydrated Nick from the hole. The tortoise is now back above ground enjoying snacks of lettuce and watermelon.

"It was really a cool ending when we got him out, and everybody's standing there looking at him going, 'What a pain,'" Michael jokes.

The Dunns plan to tortoise-proof the backyard where the tortoises live to prevent future escape attempts.

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