ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- The woman wanted by police forharassing 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 tolddeputies she's new to the area and didn't realize it was against the lawto 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, andthat would be up to a judge," said the Sheriff who noted the woman couldnot be physically arrested unless the crime was witnessed by a deputy.
In this case, a woman was spotted riding on a manatee's back thispast Sunday around 1:30 at Fort De Soto Park. Concerned citizens calledpolice and one man even snapped several photos.
"This is probably one of the most egregious cases that we've seen ofjust an absolute disrespect for wildlife," said Gaultieri. "When youjust hop on its back and want to go for a ride, I mean go ride a jetski- don't use the animals."
The Sheriff's Office is now trying to locate the wanted woman whocould face a misdemeanor charge. The Sheriff's hopes her bad examplewill educate others that messing with manatees is against the law.
Anyone with information on the case is asked by the Sheriff's Officeto contact the Environmental Lands and Marine Enforcement Unit at727-582-6200.