Deputies investigating theft of 16 of the endangered reptiles

Someone has stolen 16 small desert tortoises from a Taft-area home.
Kern County sheriff's deputies are investigating the theft of the endangered reptiles, which could sell for as much as $100 each.
The owner, whose name and address are not being released, first noticed that several juvenile tortoises, which were born from a breeding adult pair, were missing in early May.
She said she at first thought  they had been taken by animals.
But, a month later, seven more tortoises were gone.
Deputies were called last week, and it was apparent someone had stolen the reptiles.
“We developed some physical evidence and are looking for suspects,” Deputy Philip Garza said.
The tortoises have been born over the past decade and come from a pair of breeding tortoises given to the owner a decade ago,
Over the years,  the pair has continued to breed and owner had of 31 small tortoises.?
The tortoises are long-lived and grow very slowly.
The oldest turtles the owner has raised are nine years old but their shells are  7 to 9 inches across.?The smaller  and younger missing tortoises are  just 3 to 4 inches.
The first theft occurred in early May, after the reptiles were brought out of hibernation after a long, cooler winter and spring.
They were placed outside, and several days later a shell count came up nine turtles short.
“They were gone,” the owner said. “I didn't know why.”
She said she thought it was possible they had been taken by animals, and the theft was not reported.
Then in early June he count of tortoises dropped from 22 to 15.
This time the theft was reported and the investigation started.
Anyone with information on the case should call the Taft substation at 763-8550.