A Florida man was arrested Sunday after he posted photos of himself and his children handling a manatee, which is a violation of state laws.
Ryan William Waterman, 21, of Fort Pierce, posted photos to Facebook that show him holding the manatee out of the water and his children sitting on the water creature.
A Facebook user familiar with the law who saw the photos contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which led to charges being filed by the state attorney general’s office against Waterman, WPTV reported.
Waterman was arrested and charged with harassing or disturbing a manatee.
The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it illegal to “molest, harass or disturb” a manatee, the station noted.
Manatees are considering endangered species in the Sunshine State, and the law is designed to protect the animals. The manatee Waterman and his children handled was in Taylor Creek in St. Lucie County.
"An interaction that may seem harmless and innocent may ultimately have serious consequences for manatees and other wildlife," the FWC said.
Dr. Thomas Reinert, a manatee biologist with the commission, identified the animal as a calf.
“This was a young manatee which was likely still dependent on its mother for food and protection,” he said, according to WPTV. “Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf.”
A similar manatee incident reportedly occurred in Florida in October.
St. Petersburg resident Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, was allegedly observed riding a manatee in Pinellas County. She wasn’t charged with an offense because no sheriff’s deputies saw her in the act, WPTV reported at the time.