LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is looking for answers after they said a gopher tortoise was found near Orlando completely covered in what appears to be red spray paint.
FWC investigators said the tortoise was found in the middle of County Road 455, just south of Montverde, on Sunday.
"All of the areas that were easily exposed were all red," said Kim Titterington, who's helping to rehabilitate the tortoise.
She said when she and her team at Swamp Girls Adventures saw him, they knew they needed to act fast.
"We don’t want the chemicals to continue to sink in," she said. "So, we needed to get as much as (off)possible in the first 24 hours."
They nicknamed the tortoise "Raphael," after one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
If the paint does sink into Raphael's skin, she said it can cause damage to his organ. It can also block the sun and seal the tortoise's skin. If he breathes the paint in, it can cause respiratory issues.
As gopher tortoises are a threatened species in Florida , Titterington said she and her team spent the last few days scrubbing the paint off using dish soap and a toothbrush.
On Wednesday, she said she's most of the way there, although, she said some of it may just need to flake off.
She said they've all-but ruled out the possibility that the tortoise fell into the paint because the paint is only on his surface, and it's not found in any crevices.
She said she believes this was intentional.
FWC is asking for any information on how the tortoise ended up this way to call their Wildlife Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).