Friday, October 5, 2012

Don't Ride the Manatees!

A crisis hit Florida the other day when a woman was caught happily riding a manatee near a Florida coastline, so says the Tampa Bay Times.

Apparently, riding manatees is the ultimate faux pas in Florida. Manatees are beloved creatures in that part of the world, and why not? They're peaceful, odd, but incredibly endearing sea animals. So I can see why people would take offense at someone bothering a manatee.
In this photo released by the Pinellas County, Florida
Sheriff's Department, a woman illegally rides
a manatee. Only in Florida.

It's also illegal to bother said manatees. Says the Tampa Bay Times: "Under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, sea cow molestation constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor, an offense punishable by a $500 fine or a term of up to 60 days in the county jail."

Somebody snapped a picture of the woman riding the manatee and a manhunt was on to find the offender. Police held a press conference. The pic was distributed far and wide, like those images you get after a bank robbery of somebody pointing a gun at a teller.

This picture, though, was of a gleeful middle aged woman in a black bikini top seemingly enjoying herself atop the manatee. It was unclear if the manatee was gleeful, annoyed, or under the spell of some other mood.

With all the publicity, the jig was up. Several after the photo was distributed, one Ann Gloria Garcia Gutierez of St. Petersburg, Fla. owned up the ride. She said she didn't know going for a ride astride a manatee as if she was a cowboy atop a steer was legally problematic.

No word yet if Gutierez will face any charges.

As I said manatees are pretty docile, but they are wild animals. I'm continually amazed that many people don't understand that, and think anything out there in the wild or the ocean is part of one gigantic petting zoo, meant just for them.

Several years ago, I was stopped at a Vermont gas station when a moose came up to the edge of the parking lot. As always in these cases, people gawked, took pictures. Moose are cool.

But then, a mother got her young daughter, maybe three years old, out of her car, and carried her toward the moose. "Go ahead, pet it," the mother said.  Yes, mom was either incredibly stupid or incredibly homicidal toward her little girl.

Luckily, others intervened and guided mom and dad away from the perplexed looking moose.

Animals must think us humans are pretty stupid, huh?

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