Fort DeSoto, FL – Photos of a woman riding a manatee at Fort DeSoto Park sparked outrage in Florida, spurring a police hunt that ended with the woman surrendering.
The woman was photographed riding the manatee on Sunday afternoon near the Gulf Pier, reports The Examiner. Authorities were searching for the woman because of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which states:
“It is unlawful for any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner, intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.”
The woman was wanted because riding a manatee can be considered disturbing or harassing the animal, making her joyride illegal. The act of riding the endangered species is even a second degree misdemeanor in Florida.
The woman, Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, surrendered to police after she discovered she was a wanted woman. She claimed that she knew nothing about the law because she is new to the area.
Tampa Bay Times notes that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a news conference on Tuesday to speak about the woman who rode the manatee, calling the animal “a huge part of our culture here in Florida” and “a very integral part of what Florida is about.”
Gualtieri added that he hoped that photographs of the woman’s alleged indiscretion would help identify her and bring her to justice. He stated, “Go ride a Jet Ski. Don’t use animals. She needs to be held accountable for her actions.”
Gutierrez has not been charged for her manatee joyride but charges have been referred to the state attorney’s office. If she is charged, she can expect a $500 fine or a stint in jail for up to 60 days.
Do you think that the woman should be charged for riding a manatee, or was it a simple misunderstanding?