Published: Jul 25, 2013 12:13 PM EDT

PUNTA GORDA, Fl. - Sherri Fileds has lived in this neighborhood for 20 years.  One thing she loves, sharing the property with the burrowing wildlife.

"These turtles have taken over the end of this creek bank and there are a lot of turtles here and this has been their safety zone for 20 years," she says.

It's why she was so upset Monday when she saw the place these state protcted tortoises live torn up.

"Look at how they left this.... I mean this looks like a war zone here... this area didn't look this bad when hurricane Charley came through," she adds.

County Public Worls crews say they were doing maintencance work and clearing the area so heavy rains wouldn't cause drainage backups.

"Any kind of commercial, industrial, residential development you have to abide by the regulations. there is a whole series of them," says retired consulting ecologist, Nigel Morris.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials say, gopher tortoises are supposed to be relocated before any land clearing or development can take place.  But public works officials say, they didn't know there were nests here.  They have stopped the job and removed their eqitment.  They are alos bring in an environmentalist to survey the area for burrows.

"I know going forward this may help other gopher turtles... but it's not helping the ones that are dying today," Fields adds.