TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida wildlife officials are seeking information after a threatened tortoise was found covered in paint.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released photos of a gopher tortoise that had been painted pink somewhere in either St. Lucie County or Okeechobee County. Officials said someone in the area recently reported seeing another gopher tortoise with a painted shell, but the reptile was not found.
Wildlife officials urged people not to paint the tortoise because their shell is porous to liquids, therefore painting it could allow toxins into their bloodstream and cause respiratory problems.
“Do not try to capture the tortoise or remove the paint yourself, as doing so could cause more harm – contact Wildlife Alert instead,” wildlife officials said.
In Florida, the gopher tortoise is listed as Threatened. They are considered a “keystone” species , meaning they play a crucial role in their ecosystem and other species depend on them for survival.
The FWC is asking those with information about the painted tortoise to call Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com from your cell phone.