A woman caught in photos riding a manatee at Fort De Soto Park turned herself in Tuesday, after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office launched a high-profile search for her.
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, called into the Pinellas County Communications Center Tuesday afternoon to say that she was the woman seen in photographs riding an endangered manatee. The photos appeared on television and were posted to online news sites, including Patch.
Deputies met Gutierrez at her St. Petersburg home Tuesday afternoon, where she claimed she was new to the area and didn't realize it was illegal to touch sea cows.
The mammals are more commonly seen this time of year because it is their breeding season, where they head to shallower waters to mate.
The deputies explained to her the laws protecting manatees and possible consequences.
Gutierrez's charges will be brought to the State Attorney's office for prosecution.
Gutierrez was not arrested due to the crime not happening in the presence of a deputy.
It is against the law to touch manatees, 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.
The Amy H. Remley Foundation sums up what exactly you cannot do to manatees:
- swimming after a manatee moving away from you, or approaching a manatee before it has come up to you.
- pressing upon a manatee with your hand or foot, or any implement of any sort.
- doing anything to separate a calf from a cow, or separate any manatee from a group of manatees or from another manatee.
- doing anything to disturb a resting manatee.
- attempting to feed any manatee or disturbing any naturally feeding manatee.
If you see someone disturbing Manatees, you can also contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation by calling 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), *FWC or #FWC on your cellular phone or send a text message to Tip@MyFWC.com.