CORRECTION: This article originally reported that the Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017 changed the status of the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The article and headline were changed January 21, 2021 to reflect that.
Even Florida’s wildlife can’t escape the ugly effects of the current U.S. political climate.
What You Need To Know
- Video shows manatee in Homosassa River with “Trump” scrawled into its back
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigating, working with Florida wildlife officers
- Florida manatees are classified as threatened and often are victims of boat propellers
Somebody on Sunday found a manatee swimming in Citrus County with “Trump” scrawled on its back, the Citrus County Chronicle reports on its website.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or USFWS, told Spectrum News late Monday that it's investigating the matter and that it seeks information on the harassment of the manatee in the Homosassa River.
"The manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal's back," spokeswoman Christina Meister wrote in an email.
The investigating officer said harassment of a manatee is a federal offense that includes a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to a year in federal prison, the Chronicle reports. The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, which is classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a national, nonprofit conservation organization, on Monday announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for what it called “cruel and illegal” mutilation of the manatee.
"It's heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act," Jaclyn Lopez, the organization’s Florida director, said in a news release.
In 2012, a St. Petersburg woman who had been photographed riding a manatee in Fort De Soto Park was arrested and charged with violating the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation says manatees tend to stay anywhere where vegetation flourishes, such as Citrus County’s slow-moving riverbeds. That makes them accessible to swimmers and boaters, whose propellers kill, injure and leave lasting marks on these gentle, giant mammals.