A Florida man who posted Facebook pictures of himself playing with and handling a manatee calf is facing charges for violating the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Ryan William Waterman, a 21-year-old from Ft. Pierce, allegedly approached the manatee in Taylor Creek in St. Lucie County last month, according to the FWC.
Investigators later received a tip that Waterman had posted photos on Facebook, in which Waterman and the children are petting the manatee and Waterman lifting the calf partially out of the water, the FWC said.
One photo even showed a child sitting on top of the manatee, the FWC said.
The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it illegal to injure, harm, harass, capture or attempt to capture a Florida manatee. According to the FWC, an interaction that may seem harmless could have serious effects on the manatee.
"This was a young manatee which was likely still dependent on its mother for food and protection," FWC manatee biologist Dr. Thomas Reinert said in a statement. "Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf."
Reinert said the manatee appeared to have cold-stress syndrome, and taking it out of the water may have worsened its situation.
Waterman was arrested Sunday and later released on $2,500 bond. It was unknown whether he has an attorney.
Last year, a St. Petersburg woman was arrested for violating the act after authorities say she rode a manatee.
The FWC is asking anyone who witnesses manatee harassment to call their hotline at 888-404-FWCC.
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