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In Florida: Don't Ride the Manatees

A 53-year-old woman who said she was new to the area was arrested Nov. 24 and charged with violating the Manatee Sanctuary Act by riding one of the creatures last September in Pinellas County, FL.

A woman accused of riding a manatee was arrested Saturday on a charge of violating Florida's Manatee Sanctuary Act.

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, had been photographed sitting on and riding a manatee in Fort De Soto Park on Sept. 30.

Gutierrez had claimed to be new to the area and didn't realize touching manatees was illegal at the time she turned herself in. Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies explained to her the laws protecting manatees and possible consequences.

According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is unlawful for any person to intentionally or negligently disturb a manatee in any way. Violations are considered second degree misdemeanors. The animals are listed as endangered.

Beach goers who saw Gutierrez astride a manatee had summoned park rangers, who contacted deputies. By the time they arrived, Gutierrez had dropped out of sight.

After her picture had been published by media sources, Gutierrez turned herself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 2. Her charges were then forwarded to the State Attorney's Office.

The State Attorney's Office issued a warrant for her arrest on Saturday, Nov. 24, and she was arrested that day at her work place at the Sears store in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.

Editor's note: This article originally was published by Pinellas Beaches Patch in Florida.

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