A Florida woman who mounted an endangered manatee two months ago was finally arrested Saturday for violating state law, according to reports.
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez had already turned herself in last month after the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office sought help identifying a woman seen in photos riding a sea cow like a bodyboard. The Sept. 30 incident took place along coastal waters off of Fort De Soto Park near St. Petersburg.
Gutierrez, 53, was taken in without incident at her job at Sears, the Sheriff’s Office said.
She was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor under Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act, which makes it illegal for people to “intentionally or negligently … molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.”
The hulking marine mammals, with their paddle-like forelimbs, have been on Florida’s endangered list since 1967, according to the Wildlife Advocacy Project.
Gutierrez told authorities “she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees,” they said in a news release.
Investigators initially waited to charge her because they thought they needed to have witnessed the incident. But the case was forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office, which issued the warrant for her arrest.
Authorities said they don’t believe the manatee was physically harmed, although the psychological effects are still unknown. Witnesses claim Gutierrez had harassed three manatees during a mating ritual, according to FOX affiliate WSVN in Miami
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez turned herself in last month.
She was released Saturday from the Pinellas County Jail on $1,500 bail, and faces a $500 fine or up to 60 days behind bars, the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday.
If they are going to jail her and fine her it seems quite reasonable to expect signs that clearly warn that there shall be “No mounting the manatee”. How did the manatees survive before that law? Perhaps they didn’t, much, and that’s why the law is now needed.