Somebody is painting wild tortoises in Florida and the state is asking for the public’s help in finding the culprit.
“Tips needed!” The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated Friday in a news release, along with an image showing a gopher tortoise with almost its entire shell covered in pink.
The tortoise was rescued and a rehabilitation facility is tasked with removing the toxic paint.
“It may seem harmless, but it is illegal,” the FWC stated. “Painting the shells of turtles and tortoises can cause respiratory problems, allow toxic chemicals into the bloodstream, and can make them more visible to predators.”
How a gopher tortoise should look
A second gopher tortoise with a painted shell was reported to the agency but it has not yet been located.
“Do not try to capture the tortoise or remove the paint yourself, as doing so could cause more harm – contact Wildlife Alert instead,” the FWC advised. “If you have any information about who may have applied the paint to these gopher tortoises in the St. Lucie County or Okeechobee County areas, contact our Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com from your cell phone.”
Gopher tortoises, one of five North American tortoise species, are listed as threatened by Florida. They inhabit upland habitat, including forests and pastures, dig deep burrows for shelter.
According to the FWC they spend 80% of their time in burrows, which helps to explain why the second painted tortoise has been difficult to locate. Gopher tortoises can live 40 to 60 years in the wild.