Gopher tortoises attacked by dogs, recovering at Peace River Wildlife Center

Peace River Wildlife Center in Punta Gorda is taking care of six gopher tortoises that were seriously hurt by dogs recently.

“Most people are very responsible pet owners, so we are not pointing any fingers,” Dr. Robin Jenkins with the wildlife center said.

Jenkins says the half dozen injured tortoises that were brought to the wildlife center were likely mauled by dogs.

Scratches seen on the tortoise’s shell were likely left by dog teeth or nails. And this one has lingering spinal damage, so he may never walk again.

But Dr. Jenkins doesn’t put all the blame on the dogs.

“Tortoises are wild animals, and they do unpredictable things sometimes,” Jenkins said.

Some locals we spoke to were surprised to hear about that actions of some local canines.

“Mine would never do that, I don’t think,” Janine McCarthy said. “I think mine would be more scared of the tortoises than anything else.”

For precautionary measures, Jenkins says dog owners should always remain cautious, even on personal property.

“If you’ve got a dog, take him for a walk on the leash,” Jenkins said. “If you have a fenced in backyard, keep an eye on the dog.”

FWC wants more people to know how important it is to protect these animals, so it’s hosting a workshop 9 a.m. Friday at Morgan Community Center in North Port. Gopher tortoises are a threatened species and federally protected.

The good news is that most of the tortoises are expected to recover.

Anyone who sees a dog chewing on a tortoise should separate the animals.

“Know where it came from because tortoises spend their entire lives within a mile radius,” Jenkins said.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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