Disturbing Video Shows Driver Run Over Protected Tortoise

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
August 15, 2018US News

Deputies in Pinellas County, Florida, are looking for a driver who apparently intentionally drove over a protected Gopher Tortoise near an elementary school.

“On Saturday, August 11, 2018 at about 3:20 p.m., we received a call for service from a citizen who observed a badly injured Gopher Tortoise at the bus circle of San Jose Elementary School located at 1670 San Helen Drive, Dunedin. Deputies arrived on scene and summoned the assistance Owls Nest Sanctuary for Life,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on Aug. 15.

Officials then reviewed the security camera footage from the school, showing a driver of an Acura TSX slowing down before coming to a complete stop as the tortoise crosses the road.

“The driver waits for the tortoise to crawl in front of the vehicle, and then accelerates, running over the animal with the vehicle’s left front tire,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office stated. “The vehicle then continues through the bus circle and exits southbound onto San Helen Drive.”

The Acura TSA is possibly light blue or silver in color. It is equipped with a sunroof and five-spoke wheels.

The Gopher Tortoise is listed as a threatened species in Florida with both the tortoise and its burrow protected under Florida state law.

Anyone with information about this case is being asked to contact Sergeant Kristofer Wendel of the Patrol Operations Unit 727-582-6200. And if one wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS or www.crimestoppersofpinellas.org.

Deputies looking for a driver who ran over a gopher tortoise. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office screenshot)
Deputies looking for a driver who ran over a gopher tortoise. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office screenshot)

Gopher Tortoise a Threatened Species

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), “Gopher tortoises are currently protected by federal law under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Alabama counties west of the Mobile and Tombigbee Rivers and in Mississippi and Louisiana.”

The tortoises grow to be up to 15 inches in length and weigh between 8 and 15 pounds, the agency says.

“With their strong elephant-like back legs and front feet specialized for digging, they are well-adapted to burrowing. The burrows provide gopher tortoises with protection from predators and from the elements by maintaining a fairly constant environment inside. They are most active in the warmer months but spend most of their lives in their burrows. Each tortoise will dig and use many burrows throughout the active season. The burrows can vary from 3 to 52-feet-long and 9 to 23-feet-deep,” according to the FWS.

Officials say that habitat destruction is a significant threat to the species, including “habitat fragmentation and degradation, predation, inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms, and incompatible use of herbicides.”

The tortoises, according to the FWS, require large amounts of undeveloped land that aren’t divided by roads, buildings, parking lots, and other structures.

“Such barriers in natural habitat limit food availability and burrow space for tortoises plus expose them to closer contact with humans and their vehicles. Road kill is one of the major causes of death for adult tortoises. And, although removing gopher tortoises from their homes is against the law, they are so easy to catch that some people continue to kill and eat them or keep them as pets,” the FWC says.

From The Epoch Times

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