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Manatee Rider Turns Herself In

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez claimed that she didn't realize riding a manatee is illegal.

A woman caught in photos riding a manatee at Fort De Soto Park turned herself in Tuesday, after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office launched a high-profile search for her.

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, called into the Pinellas County Communications Center Tuesday afternoon to say that she was the woman seen in photographs riding an endangered manatee. The photos appeared on television and were posted to online news sites, including Patch.

Deputies met Gutierrez at her St. Petersburg home Tuesday afternoon, where she claimed she was new to the area and didn't realize it was illegal to touch sea cows.

The mammals are more commonly seen this time of year because it is their breeding season, where they head to shallower waters to mate.

The deputies explained to her the laws protecting manatees and possible consequences.

Gutierrez's charges will be brought to the State Attorney's office for prosecution.

Gutierrez was not arrested due to the crime not happening in the presence of a deputy.

It is against the law to touch manatees, which are listed as endangered by the state and federal governments.

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.

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.

Janet October 22, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Once again, another ignorant comment. Have you lived your life here in Clearwater? I have and I hope to have many more years. I strongly believe there are some who move in to our state without ever giving our own wildlife a thought. How did you treat the wildlife in your state, Miss Swifter?
Janet October 22, 2012 at 07:57 PM
She put the manatee in danger. People, think thru as to what you are saying.
Janet October 22, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Lori. Man has the ability to make right or wrong choices in life. Pls, don't use the drug overdose as an example. If someone truly wants to get clean, our county has great resources. No one said it would be easy to clean up their act. It can happen if a person is willing to stop. There are drug dealers because there are drug users. However, I've heard some rumor that man is suppose to be at the top of the food chain and smarter than the average bear. Indeed, it is only a rumor.
Janet October 23, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Final Point - no matter which way the manatee swims, IT IS ILLEGAL TO SWIM UP STREAM, OR EVEN DOWN STREAM WITH THEM. For people not able to think on their own regarding the laws protecting the manatee - please do not touch, molest or feed any wild animal = alligators included.
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