It seems that painting live turtles and tortoises have become something of a fad in Florida, and officials are now making a stern warning to leave the animals alone. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made a statement last week urging residents to refrain from applying paint on wildlife—something that to most people, should be common sense.

“You can paint your house, a piece of furniture, a canvas, or even your own fingernails or toenails, but you should never paint the shells of turtles and gopher tortoises!” the Department stated. “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 reason for the public announcement is due to a number of reports the department received of painted turtles and tortoises in recent months. Apparently, the rogue artists have been using the reptiles as a traveling display.

“Some people we’ve seen have put phrases or sayings on the gopher tortoise shell whether it’s with a sharpie marker or some other kind of paint material,” Deborah Burr, the FWC’s Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator. told WFSU.

It is, of course, illegal to paint wildlife in the state of Florida, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from doing it.

“You know, people think painting them is cute,” Burr added. “Maybe, it’s a canvass for some people, but it’s really harmful to the animal.”

This is especially true for gopher tortoises, which are a threatened species in Florida and already vulnerable due to their long maturity process. Notoriously, Florida wildlife officials have warned residents in the past from attempting to “rescue” the animals by putting them in water. Gopher tortoises nest in dunes next to water, but are poor swimmers and drown easily. Needless to say, it is one more reason why experts advise people against trying to “rescue” wildlife. It often does more harm than good.

Images courtesy FWC

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  • art frewin

    start body painting yourself and others, that is a lot more interesting

  • People are morons.

  • lapidleanora

    You’ll get a ticket

  • Kim

    This should be considered animal abuse, the person should be held accountable for their actions. This deserves more than a ticket!

  • blueseasons

    This article is inadequate. It says that it is harmful. But it doesn’t say why it is harmful. Perhaps if they explained why,people will understand. It also says its illegal but so are a lot of things. There are so many trivial laws around, people lose respect after a while because they can’t see the cause and effect. For most people (obviously) this isn’t common sense and they should not assume it is. They need to explain how this kills turtles.

    • Joe Brown

      Literally half a paragraph on this:
      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.”

    • Deanna Szuter

      Read the article. Again.

  • blueseasons

    oops.

    • Unbe Lievable

      Oops? How does one mistakenly (oops) paint a wild creature?

      • blueseasons

        One doesn’t obviously. I deleted a comment (see below) so I said opps? As it says below my delete. I misread the article, I missed a few things. Try to have a nice day and relax.

  • Unbe Lievable

    Who the heck gets up in the morning and says to him/herself, “Hm. I think I’ll go paint a wild animal today.”? What an arrogant, narcissistic ass. You just succeeded in turning this already vulnerable creature into a bright, shiny lure for it’s predators. Total DB.

  • Irishgirl57

    We have to assume that the people who do this had no idea it could be harmful to a turtle. I had no idea, but I never thought to paint one in the first place. Go easy on people if the are ignorant to the facts. How many of you knew exactly how painting a turtle was harmful? Not many, I am guessing.

  • Ben Pottinger

    He’s right on about the “rescue” thing. People are real morons when it comes to reptiles especially. A friends wife caught a box turtle and put it in her aquarium, because all turtles like water right? (Especially deep water with no place to rest other then at the bottom when you’ve drowned).

    And then you have snakes. People are idiots about snakes. It’s amazing how stupidly terrified some people are of something that has no legs and has zero interest in biting or being near giant two legged monsters.

  • Luvmylab

    Reminds me of the teenager that thought she was saving turtles by throwing them back into a pond. Unfortunately, they were land turtles.

  • FrankFrank

    I can’t imagine why I’ve grown tired of living “down here”…