Facebook post leads to St. Lucie County man being charged with harassing manatee calf

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - Investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say pictures posted on Facebook have led to charges against a St. Lucie County man for harassing a manatee calf.

Ryan Waterman, 21, of Ft. Pierce allegedly approached a manatee calf in Taylor Creek in January, according to a release.

The action is a violation of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.

Investigators said Waterman posted pictures on Facebook.  The pictures showed Waterman and two children petting a manatee calf.  One picture showed a child sitting on top of the manatee and another showed Waterman lifting the calf out of the water.

"This was a young manatee which was likely still dependent on its mother for food and
protection," said FWC manatee biologist Dr. Thomas Reinert. "Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf."

The State Attorney agreed with FWC investigators and issued a warrant for Waterman.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it illegal to injure, harm, harass, capture or attempt to capture a Florida manatee.

The FWC said that while the interaction may have seemed harmless and innocent, it may have had serious consequences for manatees and other wildlife.

According to the release, the calf also appeared to be experiencing cold-stress syndrome and taking it out of the water may have worsened the situation.

The FWC asks anyone who witnesses manatee harassment or finds a dead or distressed manatee to please call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

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