Manatee swimmer could face jail time - FOX 13 News

Manatee swimmer could face jail time

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TIERRA VERDE (FOX 13) -

It's a great place to come see some manatees, but be warned: Don't mess with the wildlife.

One woman took it way too far this weekend. Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez wasn't petting or feeding the manatees, but riding them. Now, she's in trouble with the law. What she did violates the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.

"She was, like, chasing them, get away from her," said Lynn Parrish, who saw the whole thing. "She was jumping from one to another."

Witnesses say Guiterrez refused to get off the manatees, even though people were yelling at her to stop. And then bolted after she got out of the water.

Wildlife officials say this is nothing new, there are signs everywhere to not touch the animals, that includes manatees.

Florida wildlife agents say trauma caused by human-manatee interaction can be quite severe. The more manatees are exposed to humans, the tamer they become. They'll be drawn to people, especially if they feed them. As a result, manatees end up injured. They get too close to boats and get cut or killed by the boat's propellers.

Guiterrez has turned herself in to police. She faces up to $1,000 in fines and 60 days in jail. Right now the case has been given to the State Attorney's office, they will decide what happens.

Gutierrez told law enforcement officials she is new to the area and didn't know it was against the law to touch manatees, but wildlife agents say it's no excuse.

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