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Florida woman arrested over ride on manatee

Florida police arrested a woman Saturday who had been photographed riding a manatee – a violation of the state’s Manatee Sanctuary Act, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, was arrested at the Sears store where she worked. She came forward in October to admit that she was the woman in the photographs, wearing a white cap, red shorts and a black bikini top as she tried to climb atop a manatee in Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas, Fla.

Garcia Gutierrez told authorities that she was new to the area and didn’t know that touching a manatee – also known as a sea cow – was against the law.

The manatee was not injured, but the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Acts states that: "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."

Touching a manatee is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. Two of the three species of sea cows are endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the third is considered threatened. They received their first government protections in 1893.

Florida officials took the manatee-riding reports seriously and circulated the image of the woman, asking Floridians to identify her.  

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a press conference and said that Garcia Gutierrez should “go ride a jet ski.”

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