2 gopher tortoises found covered in paint, admitted to wildlife hospital

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Photo courtesy of von Arx Wildlife Hospital

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

According to von Arx Wildlife Hospital’s press release, the gopher tortoise covered in red paint was found in Pompano Beach, and was brought in by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

A few days later, the gopher tortoise covered in blue paint was admitted from Bonita Springs, the press release said.

“This is concerning because the shell is a living tissue, and it can cause some effects overtime,” said von Arx Wildlife Hospital manager Jonee Miller.

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital has successfully removed the paint from the gopher tortoises shells by using a non-toxic soy-based product.

The wildlife hospital says the challenge with this product is that it has to sit on the contaminated area for 20 minutes, after which the staff can begin to carefully remove the paint from the gopher tortoises shells using a toothbrush.

“It can seep through their shell, seep into their skin because it is living,” Miller said. “And it causes issues with their kidney, their liver and we hope it doesn’t happen, but it can cause death.”

In the press release, it says that the removal process will span several days because “both of the tortoises are very active and can only take limited amounts of handling before becoming stressed and agitated.”

She says both tortoises have been released after all the toxic paint was removed and their vitals were back to normal.

Miller says she has worked at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for over a decade, and says this isn’t the first time she has seen a gopher tortoise covered in paint.

“We’ve seen turtles completely painted, from their heads to their legs, their undersides, their whole bodies,” Miller said. “It’s a common misconception that the outside of the turtle is just hard and firm and not part of their living tissue, but it is. It’s a growing organism, it grows with them when it ages.”

Miller says that she hopes whoever harmed these animals realizes the consequences of their actions.

“It does hurt a little bit,” Miller said. “You wonder what people’s intentions are. You want to hope everyone wishes the best for your native wildlife, and it was just in fun. But, in fun, you might not realize what you’re doing can actually be detrimental.”

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital asks that if you see or hear of a situation involving animal abuse, contact law enforcement.

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