Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Florida man arrested for dumping red paint into gopher tortoise burrow

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 7:27 PM

  • Photo via Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
An Apopka man was arrested after Florida wildlife officials say he dumped leftover red paint into a burrow, dousing the gopher tortoise living inside.

The tortoise, later named Raphael, was found April 17 by a witness in the middle of County Road 455, south of Montverde in Lake County. The reptile was covered in red paint "from head to toe," according to a report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

FWC investigators visited locations near where Raphael was seen and found a gopher tortoise burrow covered in fresh paint behind a business called RAM Striping. The owner, John Wood, told investigators his employees are supposed to dispose of paint on the property by spraying paint into a five-gallon bucket, letting it dry and later throwing away the bucket.

  • Photo via Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
An employee of the business, 37-year-old Edwin Escalera, told FWC officials he was in a hurry the morning of April 14 while cleaning out the spray machine. He sprayed the paint into a five-gallon bucket, but instead of waiting for it to dry, Escalera told investigators he dumped the paint into a hole behind the shop, the report said.

Escalera said he didn't see a tortoise in the burrow when he dumped the paint inside, according to the report. Escalera also told investigators he didn't know how cement ended up in the burrow. FWC officers found an open bag of cement inside the business and paint sprayed on the grass surrounding the burrow.

Escalera was charged with littering hazardous waste and unlawful possession of a gopher tortoise, which is a protected species.

Raphael was taken to Swamp Girl Adventures, a nonprofit that helps rescue animals. The tortoise was scrubbed with a toothbrush, and as of this week, most of the paint has been removed from Raphael's body.

Please don't paint tortoises – aside from being illegal, the FWC says painting 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."

Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter. 

Tags: , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


© 2022 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation