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Woman rides wild manatee in Florida, turns herself in

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

Authorities released this photo of a woman reportedly riding a manatee.


A woman who police said was seen touching and riding a manatee in Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas, Fla., over the weekend turned herself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Bay Times reported

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 52, told police Tuesday that she wasn't aware what she did was against the law, the report said.

Witnesses gave authorities her description and photos of her riding the sea cow, which is a second-degree misdemeanor. She was seen riding the manatee at 1 p.m. Sunday in the water north of Gulf Pier, authorities said.

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Gutierrez was not arrested or charged, but the charges were referred to the state attorney's office, according to the Times.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Acts states that: "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."

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Authorities say the penalty for the woman could be up to 60 days in jail and a possible fine of $500.

Authorities don't believe any manatees were injured.

"It's a wild animal. It's not something to be ridden," Susan Butler, a manatee expert with the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, told the Times. "I can't say that as a biologist I would ever, ever condone that, or say that (the manatee) wanted them to do that."

This article includes reporting by Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, NBCMiami.com, and NBC News staff.

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