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Man accused of attacking brown pelican charged with animal cruelty

The brown pelican is a species protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Florida state law.

A man accused of jumping into the water and attacking a brown pelican in Florida was arrested Friday on animal cruelty charges, police said.

William Hunter Hardesty, 31, was arrested by Maryland state troopers at an Ocean City hotel a day after a warrant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission charged him with animal cruelty to migratory birds and the intentional feeding of pelicans.

Hardesty posted a video to his Facebook page March 7, in which he is seen "luring" over the water near the edge of a harbor in Key West and then "jumping on top of a pelican in the water," Maryland State Police said in a statement.

The brown pelican, which is a species protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Florida state law, took a nip at Hardesty and flew away unharmed.

Hunter Hardesty attacks a pelican in Key West, Florida.Hunter Hardesty / via Facebook

In the viral clip, which has been viewed more than 130,000 times, Hardesty can be seen laughing as he holds the brown pelican before a woman warned him to get out of the water or she will call the police.

Many on social media lashed out at Hardesty, calling him "cruel" and a "punk."

He wrote back in the comments, "Next time ima eat him for dinner !! Wonder what they taste like."

Other users said they were reporting the video to law enforcement.

William Hunter HardestyMaryland State Police

Florida and Maryland authorities said they received several calls this week from "concerned citizens" who reported that Hardesty was "bragging" about "tackling a pelican."

"I shared the anger of those who contacted me regarding this video," Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said Monday. "This type of behavior — the abuse of animals — will not be tolerated on my watch."

Hardesty is awaiting extradition to Florida, police said.

Suzanne Ciechalski contributed.