Florida Woman Arrested for Riding Manatee

Officials in Florida take the protection of their endangered wildlife species seriously.

When they received a report of a woman at Fort DeSoto Park illegally hitching a ride aboard a manatee, they immediately investigated and received photos of the joyriding citizen from bystanders.

The woman is pictured from the side wearing a white cap and two–piece bathing suit and riding atop the manatee swimming through the water. Soon after, 52-year old Ana Gutierrez turned herself into authorities at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office when she realized that it was her photo that had been turned in doing the illegal manatee riding.

Gutierrez claimed ignorance of Florida’s law prohibing anyone from touching or in any way harrassing the water-bound manatees, saying she had only recently relocated to the state.

Gutierrez is facing charges of a second degree misdemeanor for the intentional harassment of a manatee, but the district attorney has not yet filed official charges.

if convicted, Gutierrez faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. She was released on $1,500 bail, according to Tampa Bay Times.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the manatee-molestation was ‘outrageous’ and warned people to leave the animals alone.

“This is manatee mating season and there are a lot of manatees around but people need to just leave them alone and not molest them and certainly not try to ride them,” he said during a news conference.

“It’s pretty outrageous when somebody does that.”

According to the Daily Mail, the woman claimed that she was new in town and did not know she had done anything wrong.

Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act forbids ‘activities may not, either intentionally or negligently, molest, harass, collide with, injure or harm manatees.’

Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Acts reads: “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.”