Man charged in painted Gopher tortoise case

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The FWC is offering a reward to find the person who covered a Gopher tortoise with red paint and concrete. (FWC: Kim Titterington)

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. (WPEC) - Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators arrested and charged a man for dumping paint down the habitat of a threatened Florida species.

The FWC and the Lake County State Attorney's Office charged 37-year-old Edwin Escalera for littering and illegal possession/taking a Gopher tortoise, according to an arrest report.

Two good Samaritans found a Gopher tortoise painted red with concrete on its body on the side of the road last April. The FWC notes that Gopher tortoises are a threatened species in Florida and painting their shells can harm them.

Investigators say Escalera, who works at RAM Striping, did not dispose of his paint properly and instead dumped it into what turned out to be the Gopher tortoise's burrow. According to the arrest report, Escalera says he did not see a tortoise in the burrow when he disposed of the paint and that he had been in a hurry.

Escalera's bail was set at $3,000.