Since 2010, there has been an increase of carved graffiti on gumbo limbo trees at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. 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 their identity or affections into the vulnerable trees. “These arrogant actions not only result in scarring these beautiful trees and exposing them to greater harm and disease, but they also ruin the natural wilderness experience many of our visitors come here to seek,” said Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik.
“It just makes me sick to see these beautiful trees defaced,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland. “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 about this or any other vandalism on the refuge, please contact Toni Westland at 239-472-1100, ext. 237.