PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A Treasure Coast animal hospital is hoping to put an end to whoever has been painting gopher tortoises in the area.
The Animal Hospital of West Port St. Lucie wrote on its Facebook page Tuesday that veterinarians "have been seeing gopher tortoises that have been painted."
Most recently, the hospital took in a tortoise whose shell was painted pink.
"It's very harmful for the tortoises," Dr. Leonard Fox said.
"Unfortunately, I've seen this happen before, so I was like, 'Here's another one,'" Fox said.
Fox said painting the animals makes them more vulnerable to predators, blocks their ultraviolet intake and causes respiratory problems.
"Predators can find a pink tortoise very easily, so it can become food," Fox said.
The Facebook post urges residents "to please leave these animals alone."
Gopher tortoises are a threatened species, making it against the law to harass them.
Fox hopes anyone with information will alert Florida wildlife officers at 888-404-FWCC. Tipsters whose information leads to an arrest could be eligible for a reward.
In the meantime, the pink-painted tortoise will be cleaned up and returned to the area where she was found.
"We will be slowly removing the paint, little-by-little, not to stress it out," he said.