State-protected tortoises beaten, left for dead in Manatee County park

$7,000 rewarded offered for helpful information
Posted at 12:29 AM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-27 02:38:53-04

A father and daughter out for a walk made a sickening discovery and now investigators are looking for the person who bashed two gopher tortoises to death. 

"I was very disturbed by it," said Ray Redden. 

Pictures taken by Redden on June 8 show the tortoises' shells crushed. 

Redden and his 10-year-old daughter were alerted to the tortoises by a friend walking along Adventure Park in Lakewood Ranch. 

"It almost had appeared that someone had picked up, slammed it, moved it, slammed it again."

Redden moved quickly, rushing one of the tortoises to hospital to be saved. 

Both tortoises died as a result of blunt force trauma.

"And the fact that they did it right here where everybody is walking, running, jogging, walking their dogs, riding a bike could see it, especially like my kids," said Redden. 

The Center for Biological Diversity announced Monday it is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has a $600 reward offered. Neighbors are contributing $1,600 to the $7,200 total reward. 

The Arizona-based non-profit has an office in St. Petersburg and is dedicated to protecting endangered species. 

"Taking just one tortoise can effect generations to come," said attorney Elise Bennett. "Gopher tortoises are defenseless. Other than their shells, that's all they have and to think that someone would do something so brutal and cruel."

Gopher tortoises are a threatened species protected under state law. Intentionally injuring or killing one is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, $5,000 fine, or both. 

Anyone with information should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or