WHITEWATER (CBSLA.com) — A large animal believed to be a desert tortoise was killed Sunday as it wandered onto Interstate 10 in an unincorporated area of Riverside County.

CHP officers received their first call about the tortoise, which climbed an embankment and attempted to cross the eastbound lanes, around 3:22 p.m., officials said.

Dozens of calls followed with witnesses describing the animal as “gigantic” and “gargantuan.”

By the time officers arrived on scene less than 20 minutes later, the tortoise had been fatally struck near the Whitewater exit and rest area.

CHP Media Relations officer Darren Webber tells CBSLA this is the first time he’s heard of a tortoise being struck by a vehicle.

“We’ve had egrets, bears, hawks, but I’ve never heard of a turtle,” Webber said.

With commuter traffic along the roadway being the heaviest on Fridays and Sundays, Weber says the animal didn’t have much of a chance.

“It’s a terrible time for a turtle to cross the road on a Sunday,” Webber said. “It may have had a chance on a Tuesday.”

The animal, which was believed to be between 100 and 150 pounds, was removed from the roadway by Caltrans workers.

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