Woman Photographed Riding A Manatee Turns Herself In

A Florida woman claims she didn't know it was against the law to ride a manatee.

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Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

Manatees are an endangered species, which is just one of the many reasons you should not pose for the camera while riding one.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to intentionally “molest, harass, or disturb” any manatee. We’re not legal experts, but we’re willing to bet that includes riding one like a horse. However, Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, of St. Petersburg, Florida, claims she was unaware of the law when she was photographed riding a so-called sea cow like a body board.

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Police were called to Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County, Fla. on Sunday to investigate reports of a woman riding a manatee, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Witnesses were able to describe the event and show police photographs of the woman, but officers did not witness the misdemeanor themselves. The deputies then turned to the media to help find the woman in the photographs.

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“To her credit, she called us up and let us know she was the one in the pictures,” Sgt. David DiSano of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office told the New York Daily News. Deputies questioned Gutierrez at her home and she admitted to riding the manatee. However she explained that she was new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or ride manatees, investigators told the Sentinel. Gutierrez then turned herself in to the police on Tuesday.

The manatee the woman was riding was not thought to have been harmed, the Sheriff’s Office said.

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115 comments
JohnVargas
JohnVargas

Let me see if I've got this straight you can run over a manatee with a speed boat and inflict grievous wounds with the propeller, (and people routinely do just that) but if you touch one with your finger it is a felony and you could spend years in prison.

George286
George286

Yow!  Which one's the manatee?

GaryCharron
GaryCharron

The Emotional Scaring and Back Pain this Manatee must be enduring after hauling this Considerable Chick all around The Florida Coast, should qualify him for SSI Disability!

Tommy Thompson
Tommy Thompson

Stupid foreigner says couldn't read the sign that say no bothering Manatees however she lives here now drives on the streets and says can't read signs as her defense to escape fines for Animal molestation. America is just too stupid. Really.

Flashman1854
Flashman1854

Give me a break!

This is one reason people begin to disrespect so-called "environmentalists" and others who lobby for stupid laws like this to be passed.

Utter tripe!

psychobyte
psychobyte

Let's get her a shirt that says "It's tempting but, Please Don't try to Ride me like a Manatee".

steveo77
steveo77

ignorance is no excuse....

plus she is so fat she is abusing that manatee

Spacetree
Spacetree

Now all you have to do is teach it BUBBLEBEAM and that manatee is ready to take on the Cinnabar Island Gym Leader.

Dan Pieniak
Dan Pieniak

Hard to see what the heck she is riding! Are there signs posted about do not disturb the Manatees. It seems there are more important stories to tell.... Like our failing economy and our countries slide into oblivion ! Save us humans first.

Ben Miller
Ben Miller

The only reason I know it's illegal to approach manatees is because of stories I read as a child in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.  If someone was never exposed to such stories, I don't know how they'd ever know the law about them.

On another note, I also learned that it's totally okay if THEY approach YOU.  In other words, you can stand in the water, and if they come up to you and touch you, you can touch them.  Not ride on them, mind you, but touch them.And on that note, proving, in court, that you approached the manatee and not the other way around is going to be quite difficult for prosecutors.  In truth, such laws do almost nothing to protect species (and everything to harm them, as the rule when you find an endangered species on your property goes: kill it and bury it, and it never existed), especially when you understand that even if you fail to keep your mouth shut, you can still find many loopholes (which exist so big businesses don't have to concern themselves "endangered species").

Janet Coleman
Janet Coleman

it is a crime punishable by imprisonment in many countries where Brandt and I have been diving to even touch a marine specimen..it can not only result in the diver being hurt but it can spread bacteria from human skin to species who have no way to fight it..I never cease to be amazed by the stupidity and arrogance of people..

Steve Leach
Steve Leach

I am the photographer who took the photos.Thanks for sharing them and the story. I hope that this will help educate many people about the harm interaction with wildlife can have on both the animals and the humans,

While normally manatee are slow moving, but during mating, like when this happened, they are fast moving and very powerful animals. 

I am glad she did not get hurt, and that it seemed neither did the manatee. BUT it did interrupt the behavior of the manatees. 

Again I am glad she turned herself in finally and also that this story may help educate many others on the proper way to appreciate and watch wildlife, from a safe distance!

Reptilian2012
Reptilian2012

The arrest of this middle-aged woman is the only thing that stands between Americans and a new wave of terror; manatee-powered terror. If not for our ever-vigilant authorities, al-Qaeda would have long corrupted these rare, noble beasts and turned them against us. Picture in your mind the hoards of Jihadist sea-mammals that would prey on America's seagoers if  not for the brave policemen of St. Petersburg.

Steve Leach
Steve Leach

My name is Steve Leach and I am the photographer who took these photos.

Thank you for sharing this story, hopefully it will help educate people on the laws as well as on the proper behavior when being around wildlife.

I all too often have seen evidence of where people have intruded on wildlife when I am out taking photos.  I am happy I was able to help the police in this matter and that these photos of mine will help educate people everywhere as to the risks for humans and animals from direct contact in the wild and that in most cases it is illegal.

Nelda Burkhart Purdon
Nelda Burkhart Purdon

Why would you want to in the first place? Do people wake up and try to think of something ridiculous to do for the day?

dawnmkosiek
dawnmkosiek

In the picture she looks like she is on  a Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Manta birostris),

not a manatee.

William SP
William SP

she rides pays the fine or be jailed ....manatee complained im not a horse nor a cow...stressed..

Silky Johnson
Silky Johnson

So these are the important issues Obama has been taking care of the four years.

tigerbalm2010
tigerbalm2010

Based on the pic, which one was the manatee? Hard to tell really =P

Brandon
Brandon

Chris Hanson: "You came here to molest a manatee - I've got the transcripts right here.. 'hey SeaCowSeaCowRun wat u up to?  Have you ever ----ed a ---- before?'  And then the decoy says, 'I'd be down to get wet, for sure; what size are you?'  To which you reply, 'Big'.  Now why would you say that to a manatee you believed to be fourteen years old?'"

Disquskurr
Disquskurr

Just spoke to the manatee.

He's real upset at all this press.

And he swears he did not know she was 52.

He told me he is going to sue his optician coz he thought she was like 28 0r 29 max.

And he swore by his girl friend that nothing really happened.

It was just a free ride.

 

Steve Moya
Steve Moya

Wait...wait, not only is this wrong, but what happened here?! So she was like swimming and all of a sudden a manatee passes by and she's like "im a' ride that!" ... Who does that?! Lol

John Forsthoffer
John Forsthoffer

I had friends in the Marines that used to ride manatees every friday night.

JCQueipo
JCQueipo

Ok I have played with manatees ( not in Florida ) and if they like you they become very playful and if they don't like you they go away, so I imagine the manatees were having a good time. This woman wasn't harrasing the manatees. 

rhesus303
rhesus303

"Who is the picture of the Manatee or the rider?"  ???

Angie Xu
Angie Xu

Poor manatee ..... She looks heavy : $

Samurai Social
Samurai Social

Uh, even if it was legal, why would you try to ride a manatee? Sounds like she's the type of person the "Remove before driving" disclaimer on car sunscreens was created to protect.

Adrian Jawort
Adrian Jawort

Common sense dictates that you wouldn't know why it WOULD be legal.

Eileen Miller
Eileen Miller

She saids she was unaware of the law. Yeah right.

Wesley Nicholas
Wesley Nicholas

the photo is mislabeled. it should read "whale photographed riding a manatee".

Andrew Seaward
Andrew Seaward

I ride a manatee every night I go home to my wife. She's a gentle giant.

Andree Adam
Andree Adam

well some people are just plain stupid, what is there more to say !!! "No I did not know it is illegal" tsssss... That's actually why we have so many stupid laws for stupid people like this woman !!!

Judy Ripper
Judy Ripper

Geez what did she think it was Disney or something?

Nadine Berumen
Nadine Berumen

Stupid lady she needs to have respect for animals. Don't think she would like it if I jumped on her back and made her give me piggy back ride.

thefixitman6
thefixitman6

Manatee needs a rabies shot thanks to her. Plus an anti-ugly shot.

paganmist
paganmist

@Flashman1854 I don't have a problem with the law, I have a problem with the fact that the photographer didn't have the decency to go up to the woman and speak to her, just in case she didn't know that what she was doing was wrong. It's easy to say she should've known better, and yet humans do this to each other in the water all the time and do not get hurt, because water carries your weight. 

I can see if she was stabbing the manatee or something like that, but when you see in movies and such professional trainers playing with and riding upon sea creatures and nothing bad happens, there is no reason for you to ASSUME that what you're doing is inherently wrong. I didn't know that it was illegal to even touch a manatee or to go up to a manatee. Why would I know? I don't hate manatees or anything, but I don't have a lot of experience with them. When I went to hawaii and hanauma bay, we were informed many times by multiple people and in multiple ways to not interact with the sea turtles, but if they had've just assumed that people would know not to, then many people would've been touching them and playing with them, myself included. 

I think this photog doesn't deserve any praise. I stand by my principles, if I see someone doing something that might be wrong, I don't stand back snapping photos like a coward. If he really thought the woman or the manatee were in the act of being hurt, then the fact that this was his way of handling it makes me have very little respect for him. Ultimately, it sounds like this woman had a legitimate reason for not knowing she was breaking any laws, but like someone else said, she was obviously a "foreigner" so apparently she didn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder if the dude would've gone up and spoken to her before sending her picture out to demonize her if she was a gorgeous blonde-haired blue-eyed fair-skinned supermodel. Somehow I get the feeling that he would've seen giving her a lecture as the better option, and I truly do believe that.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Great photo, Steve. Thanks. And thanks for being so understanding of both the manatees and the humans involved.

paganmist
paganmist

@Mary Jane Roberts I can't believe you attached your real name to such a mean-spirited comment as this.

lajohnson
lajohnson

@paganmist You can't just approach people, nowadays.  A lot of people are confrontational.  I witnessed this two days ago in my community.  Property Manager went to ask the residents to move their cars out of the cul-de-sac as it is not a parking lot and this young dude start threatening the lady.

He still didn't move the car and it was towed.  However, the property manager was nice throughout the ordeal, but the resident wanted to be a jerk.