MONTVERDE, Fla. - A man accused of painting a turtle red said he didn't know the reptile was in a hole that he dumped a five-gallon bucket of paint and concrete into, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission said.
Edwin Escalera, 36, who works at a seal coating business near where the turtle was found, faces multiple charges, including illegal possession of a gopher tortoise and littering.
To dispose of paint, Escalera is supposed to spray the paint into a bucket, let it dry, then throw out the bucket, according to an incident report.
"However, he was in a hurry and decided to dump the paint into the hole," the report said.
The tortoise was found in the middle of County Road 455, south of Montverde, coated in red spray paint and with concrete on its limbs and the top of its shell. Two good Samaritans spotted it and took it to a wildlife rehabber.
It is both illegal and harmful to apply man-made substances, such as paint or concrete, to any part of a tortoise's body or shell. Applying substances like paint on tortoises can inhibit their ability to absorb vitamins from the sun’s UV rays through their shells, has the potential to cause respiratory problems and can lead to harmful chemicals being absorbed into their bloodstream.
Removing paint and concrete from gopher tortoises without harming it is a challenging process that causes the animal stress, officials said.
Gopher tortoises are state-listed as Threatened and are a protected species. Rules and regulations regarding gopher tortoises can be found here: https://bit.ly/2voyOnL
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