Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez of St. Petersburg is the unknown woman in this photograph unlawfully riding a manatee offshore Fort De Soto Park Sunday afternoon. Witnesses took this photo and reported the offense to Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies, who started a search to find her.
Photo courtesy PCSO
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez of St. Petersburg is photographed by witnesses violating the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.
TIERRA VERDE – A St. Petersburg woman told Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies, she didn’t know it was against the law to touch or harass manatees.
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, called the sheriff’s Communications Center about 4 p.m. Monday to turn herself in. Gutierrez admitted to the offense claiming she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees. Deputies further explained the law regarding manatees and the possible penalties for violating such laws.
Deputies advised Gutierrez that charges would be forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution. She was not arrested because she did not commit the offense in a deputy’s presence.
Deputies announced earlier in the day that they were seeking a woman who was observed touching and riding a manatee over the weekend at Fort De Soto Park.
Her actions were in violation of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act – a second-degree misdemeanor.
Deputies responded to Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S. in Tierre Verde, about 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, after receiving reports of a female riding a manatee in the waterway just north of the Gulf Pier.
When deputies arrived on scene, they were unable to locate the woman. Witnesses in the area were able give deputies a description, including photos, of the suspect and where she was last seen.
Florida State Statute 379.2431(2)d (Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act) states “It is unlawful for any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any Manatee”.
Deputies said in a report they don’t believe any manatees were injured in the incident.