The September manatee rider at Fort De Soto Park was finally arrested and charged Saturday—more than seven weeks after she turned herself in to authorities.
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53 years old, was arrested and charged Saturday, Nov. 24 for violating the Manatee Sanctuary Act. Gutierrez had been photographed sitting on and riding a manatee in Fort De Soto Park on Sept. 30.
After her picture had been published by media sources, Gutierrez turned herself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, Oct. 2, but investigators initially said they couldn't charge her because they believed for this charge they had to have witnessed it. Her charges were then forwarded to the State Attorney's Office.
The State Attorney's Office issued a warrant for her arrest on Saturday and she was arrested that day at her place of employment at the Sears in Tyrone Mall in St. Petersburg.
Gutierrez claimed to be new to the area and didn't realize touching, riding and sitting on manatees was illegal at the time she turned herself in. Pinellas County Sheriff deputies explained to her the laws protecting manatees and possible consequences.
It is against the law to touch manatees in the wild, which are listed as endangered by the state and federal governments.
According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is unlawful for any person to intentionally or negligently disturb a manatee in any way. Violations are considered second degree misdemeanors.
Beach goers who saw Gutierrez astride a manatee had summoned park rangers, who contacted deputies. By the time they arrived, Gutierrez had dropped out of sight.