Two gopher tortoises admitted to wildlife hospital covered in paint

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Two gopher tortoises were among the 92 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

The first gopher tortoise was found in Pompano Beach and was brought to the Conservancy by staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The tortoise was found in with his carapace (top shell) covered in red paint.

Shockingly, a few day later, a second gopher tortoise was admitted from Bonita Springs suffering the same fate — her shell was painted blue. Knowing both these helpless creatures suffered due to human ignorance and cruelty was incredibly disheartening for hospital staff.

While it takes considerable time, we have had success removing paint from tortoise shells using a non-toxic soy-based product. The challenge with the product is that it must sit on the area contaminated with paint contaminated for 20 minutes, after which time staff can begin to carefully remove the paint from the shell using a toothbrush.

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The paint removal process for these two tortoises will span several days because both tortoises are very active and can only take limited amounts of handling before becoming stressed and agitated.

Please, if you see or hear of a situation involving animal abuse contact law enforcement. Be an advocate for animals. Some people may think of this as a harmless prank or an act of mischief but it isn’t; having the shell covered in paint can lead to serious health issues for the tortoise. No living creature should ever be subjected to this type of cruelty.

Recent Releases

Three eastern screech owls, an indigo bunting, a southern toad, two mourning doves, a northern mockingbird, three raccoons, two eastern cottontails and a red-shouldered hawk were released this past week.

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Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.