Florida Police Seek Driver Who Ran Over Gopher Tortoise

August 16, 2018

Police in Pinellas County, FL are looking for the driver of an Acura TSX who ran over an endangered gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)  in the town of Dunedin. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was called to San Jose Elementary School by a passerby who found the badly injured tortoise at the school’s bus circle. 

Deputies are requesting the Public’s Assistance

Deputies are requesting the Public’s Assistance in identifying the person responsible for running over a protected Gopher Tortoise 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. Deputies reviewed the surveillance camera located at the school. The video depicted an unidentified driver of a light colored possibly newer model Acura TSX entering the bus circle of San Jose Elementary School. The driver of the vehicle slows down, and then comes to a complete stop as the tortoise crosses the roadway. 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 vehicle then continues through the bus circle and exits southbound onto San Helen Drive. The vehicle is possibly light blue or silver in color, and is equipped with a sunroof and 5 spoke wheels. In Florida the Gopher Tortoise is listed as threatened a species. Both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law. Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Sergeant Kristofer Wendel of the Patrol Operations Unit 727-582-6200. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS or www.crimestoppersofpinellas.org.

Posted by Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Officers reviewed school security camera footage and watched as the driver of the car rolled around the bus circle, stopped as a gopher tortoise started crossing the road, and then proceeded to run the tortoise over with the car’s left front tire. The car then left the school property. 

It is not clear in the video if the encounter was intentional. Folks on the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page are divided as to whether the driver saw the tortoise. 

Anyone with any information regarding this case can contact Kristofer Wendel of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Operations Unit at 727-582-6200. You can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS or www.crimestoppersofpinellas.org.

gopher tortoise


Gopher tortoises and their burrows are protected by Florida state law.

Gopher tortoises are protected throughout their range either by state or federal law. Gopher tortoises are listed as threatened species in the state of Florida. Both the tortoise and their burrow are protected. They reach maturity at 10-15 years of age and are considered a long-lived tortoise.


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