Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, of St. Petersburg, came forward and admitted to the crime in early October, after being photographed riding on the back of one of the marine mammals in Fort De Soto Park, just outside St. Petersburg — though she said she was unaware that she’d committed a crime at all. Alas, ignorance does not equal innocence, and on Saturday she was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant, the Los Angeles Times reports.
An anonymous bystander photographed Gutierrez grabbing on to the manatee and, essentially, riding it like a boogie board, but because police were not on the scene of the incident, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office released the photo in the hopes that a witness could identify the woman. Conveniently enough, she called in and identified herself.
No law specifically prohibits riding a manatee — also known as a sea cow — but the state’s Manatee Sanctuary Act does deem it 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” the endangered animals. Back when Gutierrez turned herself in, NewsFeed went ahead and assumed that riding one would fall somewhere into the annoy/disturb category, automatically making her actions a second-degree misdemeanor. And indeed, that appeared to be the case when she was taken into custody on Saturday at the Sears department store where she works.
The maximum penalty for this type of infraction is a $500 fine and up to six months in jail; Gutierrez was released on $1,500 bail, the Associated Press reports. And to those who were concerned: the manatee was not hurt in the humiliating incident — at least, not physically.