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Refuge vandals are sought in tree defacings

June 26, 2014
By CRAIG GARRETT , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Wildlife authorities are asking for the public's help in stopping vandalism at the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel.

Since 2010, there has been an increase of carved graffiti on gumbo limbo trees at the federal wildlife refuge that stretches over several thousand acres. Gumbo limbos are native island trees nicknamed "tourist trees" because their red, peeling bark resembles sunburnt tourists. The gumbo limbo's soft, smooth bark is also more susceptible to vandals destructively carving messages into the vulnerable trees.

And the refuge manager is not happy with the culprits.

Article Photos

Tree defacings punishable on federal land. PHOTO PROVIDED

"These arrogant actions not only result in scarring these beautiful trees and exposing them to greater harm and disease," Paul Tritaik said, "but they also ruin the natural wilderness experience many of our visitors come here to seek."

Toni Westland, the US Fish & Wildlife Service supervisory ranger assigned to the refuge, echoed the sentiments.

"It just makes me sick to see these beautiful trees defaced," Westland said. "The culprits need to realize that they are vandalizing federal property on federal lands, which is a punishable offense."

Harming refuge wildlife and vandalizing federal property is unlawful. Anyone with information refuge vandalism can call (239) 472-1100/ext. 237. Details about "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge are at



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