Van, turkeys, tortoise taken

Someone abducted part of Jan Wirth’s family.

Tiko, an African desert tortoise, and five of his turkey roommates – Lady Bird and her chicks – were inside Wirth’s minivan when it was stolen Wednesday in Seattle.

“They’re my children and my pets,” said Wirth, 61, of Everett. “I’ve had that little tortoise since it was 16 pounds and I need to find the turkeys. They’ll die of sunstroke.”

Michael V. Martina / The Herald

Jan Wirth hugs one of her pet turkeys at her home in Everett. Her van was stolen Wednesday in Seattle, along with five other pet turkeys and a pet tortoise in the vehicle. Wirth is worried that the animals could die in the hot weather without proper care.

Wirth and her husband, Jack, had driven their van to a friend’s house to show the animals to a toddler the friend was babysitting.

On the way back to Everett, Wirth rode with her friend and her husband drove the van with the animals. About 6:30 p.m., they pulled the two vehicles into a 7-Eleven on Roosevelt Way N. to grab some coffee.

But Jack Wirth left the keys in the van.

A man in the parking lot caught Jan Wirth’s eye. He seemed to be checking out the cars. Suddenly he jumped into the van, driving off recklessly, she said.

Have you seen any of the following?

* The Wirths’ van: Dark blue 1988 Dodge Caravan with wood-side paneling and a roof rack, license 020 MAN.

* Tiko the tortoise: Tiko is brownish-green, 65 pounds, about 2 feet long (when stretched), with an identification tag glued to his shell. His favorite foods are cucumbers, carrots and broccoli. He also loves watermelon, but do not give him any because it’s not good for him.

* Lady Bird and chicks: Lady Bird is black and white, about 2 feet tall, 15 pounds, and looks similar to a peacock with turkey features. The chicks are less than a week old, yellow, fuzzy and about 3 inches tall.

* Who to call: Anyone with information is asked to call Seattle police, 206-625-5011.

An onlooker jumped into his own car and gave chase for about 10 minutes, but couldn’t keep up with the van, Wirth said.

The animals were in the back of the van. Lady Bird and her chicks were in a cage with a blanket covering them to keep them out of the sun, Wirth said.

Tiko, 8, also had wiggled under the blanket for an evening nap.

Wirth was still distraught on Thursday. “I’m so exhausted right now,” she said. “I’ve been screaming all night.”

She fears that the animals may be thrown onto the road, starve to death or die of heat exhaustion if they are not rescued soon.

“They don’t have enough food to last them, and it’s probably gone by now,” she said. “So this is where we’re sitting. It’s hell, it’s just hell.”

Wirth hopes the suspect will abandon the van, which she says has battery problems. She’s offering a reward, possibly $500, she said, for anyone who returns the animals, no questions asked.

On Thursday, Wirth said, she was comforting the chicks’ father, Lonnie.

The tom is just one of about 50 turkeys, ducks, chickens, geese and iguanas at her home, where she runs Featherbed and Breakfast animal orphanage.

The family also includes Tiko, four cats and two dogs.

The animals are an important part of their lives, she said.

They found Tiko three years ago on a Whidbey Island beach, she said, when he was much smaller. He now weighs 62 pounds and is 2 feet long, from tail to head, when he stretches his neck out.

Tiko was a member of the Wirths’ wedding party last summer. His job was to waddle around with cans tied to his shell, sporting a sign on his back that said: “Just married and going nowhere fast.”

Tiko has a label stuck to his shell with the Wirths’ contact information.

The turkeys should also be easy to identify, she said, because they don’t look like most turkeys.

“They look more like a white and black peacock with turkey features,” she said.

If they’re not returned soon, Lady Bird and the chicks may suffer “a very miserable death” in a few days, Wirth said.

Investigators are giving the case a higher priority because animals are involved, said Rich Pruitt, Seattle police spokesman.

Even so, “we can’t send out an Amber alert on a turtle,” Pruitt said. There are 9,000 vehicles stolen in Seattle every year, he said.

Wirth hopes to get her family’s pets back.

“You raise them and put your heart and soul into them,” she said. “In your mind, these animals are just as important (as children).”

Reporter Chris Collins: 425-339-3436 or

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