You can paint your nails, you can paint your house — but you can’t paint a turtle.
That’s what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to remind Floridians after two gopher tortoises were found with paint on their shells. They shared pictures of the turtles on Facebook, with a warning that the paint is not only illegal, but harmful to the turtles and tortoises.
“While to you it may seem harmless, painting the shells of turtles and tortoises can severely compromise their health — the paint can hinder their ability to absorb vitamins they need from the sun, cause respiratory problems, allow toxic chemicals into the bloodstream and more,” the announcement said.
The paint also makes the tortoises and turtles more noticeable and vulnerable to predators, according to the Wildlife Commission. There is greater concern for gopher tortoises, which are listed as threatened in the state of Florida and protected under state law.
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Officials can remove the paint, but sometimes paint or staining still remains on the shell depending on where the paint was and how long the paint was on. It can take several cleaning sessions with treatments that don’t cause further injury, and the tortoise or turtle may need to be sedated to remove the paint, according to the agency.
Report suspected wildlife violations to the FWC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com