A gopher tortoise covered in paint was reported to FWC. The tortoise’s entire carapace and parts of her head and legs were covered in paint.

Blatent animal abuse: Tortoise painted red

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The gopher tortoise was among the 85 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include five chimney swifts, a gray kingbird, a downy woodpecker and a Florida softshell turtle.

If you see or hear of a situation involving animal abuse — speak up and contact law enforcement. Be an advocate for the animal. People may think of this as a prank or a silly act of mischief, but it isn’t; a living creature should never be subjected to this type of abuse.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Biologist responded to a call involving a gopher tortoise that had its shell covered in red paint. This case is disturbing because it is particularly difficult to witness blatant animal abuse.

Along with her shell being covered in paint, the tortoise also had paint on her head and legs, the only part to be thankful for was that she didn’t get paint in her eyes.

After several washings to remove paint from her shell, a gopher tortoise is ready for release.

Sadly this isn’t the first tortoise we have encountered that has been painted. And while we have had success removing paint using a non-toxic soy based product, the challenge is the product must sit for 20 minutes before being wiped off.

It took several days before the paint was removed from the tortoise’s shell because she was active and could only take limited amounts of handling before becoming stressed and agitated. The tortoise’s high activity level required she be sedated in order to remove the paint from head and legs.

Four days after arriving at the hospital the tortoise was cleaned and her behavior showed she was more than ready for release. The FWC biologist released her in an area shown to have a healthy gopher tortoise population.

If you see or hear of a situation involving animal abuse — speak up and contact law enforcement. Be an advocate for the animal. People may think of this as a prank or a silly act of mischief, but it isn’t; a living creature should never be subjected to this type of abuse.

Recent Releases — 39 Animals Returned Home

  • 3 mottled ducks
  • 7 eastern cottontails
  • 3 blue jays
  • 5 northern mockingbirds
  • 1 snail kite
  • 1 barred owl
  • 1 royal tern
  • 1 laughing gull
  • 5 raccoons
  • 5 mourning doves
  • 2 common grackles
  • 2 double-crested cormorants
  • 1 Florida snapping turtle
  • 1 brown pelican
  • 1 peninsula cooter

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Volunteers are needed more than ever during our incredibly busy summer season. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see conservancy.org.


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Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.

A week inside the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Weekly blog from Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

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