Woman Rides Manatee, Gets Arrested [VIDEO]
A woman who was captured by a security camera riding a manatee in Florida has been arrested. Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez was arrested Saturday for violating Florida's Manatee Sanctuary Act when she decided to ride the manatee at Fort De Soto Park. Gutierrez turned herself in to authorities when she learned she was in trouble after videos that show her as she rides the manatee surfaced online.
The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act 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."
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"[Gutierrez explained] she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees," the sheriff's office said in a September statement. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had harsh words for Gutierrez when the manhunt for 'the woman who rides a manatee' began in October.
"Go ride a Jet Ski. Don't use animals," the sheriff said. "She needs to be held accountable for her actions."
Gutierrez initially faced no charges for riding a manatee since a deputy did not witness the manatee ride. However, a second-degree misdemeanor charge was forwarded to a state's attorney's office, and that charge is what landed Gutierrez in murky legal waters on Saturday when she was apprehended while shopping at Sears.
Gutierrez faces a $500 fine and six months in jail. The manatee appeared unharmed, but biologists say it's not something that should ever be done.
"It's a wild animal. It's not something to be ridden," said Susan Butler, a manatee expert with the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville told the Tampa Bay Times. "I can't say that as a biologist I would ever, ever condone that, or say that (the manatee) wanted them to do that."
Manatees are an endangered species despite having no natural predators. The greatest threat to the manatee (other than manatee rides) is the loss of their habitat along the coast of Florida. Manatees are also prone to injuries from motorboat engines, as they like to stay close to the surface of the water. As of January 2011, there were about 4,800 manatees left in Florida.
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