Woman who 'rode' manatee at Fort DeSoto Park turns herself in

A woman caught on camera riding on the back of a manatee over the weekend at Fort DeSoto Park has turned herself in to authorities.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Communications Center to turn herself in, according to a news release.

The sheriff's office says Gutierrez violated the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which 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." The violation is a second degree misdemeanor.

Deputies met with Gutierrez at her residence and questioned her regarding the reported events, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

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.

Due to the nature of the crime this was not an arrestable offense because it did not occur in the deputy's presence, the news release said.

Deputies concluded their contact with Gutierrez and explained to her that charges would be forwarded to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution.

Officials said they do not believe any manatees were injured when the woman was touching and climbing on the animals in the waters just north of the Gulf Pier on Sunday. The Sheriff's Office was contacted a short time later.

The woman was gone by the time deputies arrived but witnesses were able to give a description of the woman, which included photographs of her in the water with the manatees.

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