A woman who was photographed riding a manatee in Florida this week turned herself in on Wednesday following a police press conference in Pinellas County where authorities asked the public to come forward with additional information about the suspect.
Florida state law says that riding or even touching manatees is a misdemeanor crime. The animals are near extinction, but several thousand still remain in shallow waters around Florida.
That came as a surprise to Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, who phoned police after seeing her photo in the news. A prepared statement from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department said she admitted the offense but professed ignorance of the law, explaining she’d only recently moved to the area.
A bystander snapped several photos of Gutierrez climbing atop one of Florida’s famous sea cows on September 30 shortly after noon near the Gulf Pier in Tierra Verde. Police were called at the time, but she was already gone when they arrived.
Gutierrez will likely face a fine of several hundred dollars, but she was not arrested because an officer did not observe the offense. Police said the manatee was not injured.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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