ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- The woman wanted by police for harassing and riding on a manatee at Fort De Soto Park has turned herself in.
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office shortly after 4 p.m. to turn herself in.
Deputies say she admitted to riding on the manatee. Gutierrez told
deputies she's new to the area and didn't realize it was against the law
to touch or harass the creature.
The sheriff's office says charges will be forwarded to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution.
Here in Florida we've heard it all, from teachers sexting students to horrible cases of animal abuse.
But this is a new one: a woman caught on camera over the weekend "MOLESTING" a manatee.
"Oh my God, the poor manatee," said a giggling Fort De Soto visitor Hannah Moore.
But Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri isn't laughing.
"If we could, we'd lock her up," said Sheriff Gaultieri.
The state of Florida has strict laws protecting the endangered manatee and harassing one can land the offender behind bars.
"The punishment is up to 60 days in the county jail and a fine, and
that would be up to a judge," said the Sheriff who noted the woman could
not be physically arrested unless the crime was witnessed by a deputy.
In this case, a woman was spotted riding on a manatee's back this
past Sunday around 1:30 at Fort De Soto Park. Concerned citizens called
police and one man even snapped several photos.
"This is probably one of the most egregious cases that we've seen of
just an absolute disrespect for wildlife," said Gaultieri. "When you
just hop on its back and want to go for a ride, I mean go ride a jet
ski- don't use the animals."
The Sheriff's Office is now trying to locate the wanted woman who
could face a misdemeanor charge. The Sheriff's hopes her bad example
will educate others that messing with manatees is against the law.
Anyone with information on the case is asked by the Sheriff's Office
to contact the Environmental Lands and Marine Enforcement Unit at