Police hunt woman snapped riding a manatee at Florida beach
Police are on the hunt for a woman who was snapped riding a manatee while swimming at a Florida beach on Sunday. Manatees – large, underwater mammals also known as sea cows – are protected in the state and it is a crime to ‘intentionally annoy, harass or disturb’ the animals. But the mystery woman, dressed in a black bikini top, red boardshorts and a white cap, didn’t let that stop her catching a ride on one of the creatures at Fort DeSoto Park. Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies rushed to the beach at around 1pm after receiving reports of a woman ‘riding’ the animal. But once they arrived, the culprit had disappeared. However, a quick-thinking onlooker managed to take photographs of the woman’s joy ride and police are now using the images to track her down. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the manatee-molestation was ‘outrageous’ and warned people to leave the animals alone. ‘This is manatee mating season and there are a lot of manatees around but people need to just leave them alone and not molest them and certainly not try to ride them,’ he said during a news conference. ’It’s pretty outrageous when somebody does that.’ According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is unlawful for someone to intentionally or negligently ‘annoy, molest, harass, or disturb’ a manatee or even to attempt to do so. ‘It’s clear from the photographs that’s what she was doing,’ Gualtieri added. ’We are asking for the public’s help in identifying this woman so that the deputies can place the appropriate criminal charges against her.’ The unlucky sea cow wasn’t believed to have been hurt in the incident. But the woman, if caught, will likely face a second degree misdemeanor charge for disturbing the mammal and possibly even prison time.