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Illegal Manatee Ride Prompts Search for Suspect

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is searching for a woman seen riding and handling a manatee, an endangered species.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is asking the public for helping in identifying and finding a woman spotted astride a manatee in the waters off Fort De Soto Park Sunday.

Deputies responded to a call from park rangers at Fort De Soto that a woman was riding a manatee in the waters north of the Gulf Pier.

The woman was unable to be found when deputies arrived, but witnesses were able to provide descriptions and photos of the woman, which also were posted to Facebook.

According to a post on the Friends of Fort De Soto Facebook page, the manatees that the woman was riding were mating at the time of the incident.

One of the commenters wrote:

"I was shocked when I saw this lady in the water with the Manatees that were mating, It got worse as she sat on the Manatee, then RODE the Manatee. With people screaming from the shore. She finally got away from them as they swam off to deeper water. Rangers were called and took care of the situation."

No manatees are believed to have been harmed in the incident.

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.

Manatees are classified as endangered by both the state and federal governments. Manatees are listed by the World Conservation Union as "vulnerable to extinction."

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Deputy Charlie Tita at (727) 582-6200.

Update: The woman has turned herself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Rachel Byrne October 07, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I love how so many articles get off topic of the story. Makes me laugh. But I do agree that what the person who said about the car being stolen is true. The point is if something is against the law then each crime should be investigated equally. To belittle a car being stolen is insensitive. What if they had to bring their kid to school or get to work. Will you be nice enough to bring them? Doubt it. I was lucky when our house got broken into they found the kid who did it but I know many who have ben violated that didn't get justice. Crime is crime and all are equal.
Philip Penrose October 08, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Rachel when you say, " Crime is crime and all are equal.", I couldn't disagree with you more...LOL Every police department has limited resources. A driver is carjacked, a manatee is "ridden", a child is abducted. All crimes are equal? Absolutely not. If they were, the resources of that law agency would be divided into equal parts and each crime investigated fully. We know that ain't gonna happen - nor should it.
CJ October 08, 2012 at 05:16 PM
still wating for the pic
CJ October 08, 2012 at 05:18 PM
best comment here
CJ October 08, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Rachel? ''all are equal''?? You might want to re think that. Surely (sorry to call you that...lol) you are not serious that all crimes are equal? Some beleive the same is true about the 10 commandments, and how some believe all sins are equal. I can remember some heated bible study sessions on this. I know where I am going to end up if I murder someone...but doubt I will catch much heat at the pearly gates for saying wtf once too often.

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