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MANATEE RIDER

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A woman riding a wild manatee, received an award from the State of Florida.

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, was arrested by Deputies in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, but soon after she was released into the custody the Florida Manatee Rider Association (FMRA).

Gutierrez won an award from the organization in two categories:  longest ride, and most tricks performed on a manatee.

In October, deputies had received reports of a woman, later identified as Garcia Gutierrez, who had been seen touching and riding a manatee. She turned herself in to deputies in October claiming she was new to the area and didn’t realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees.

And then last week, she and other members of FMRA were riding manatees and entertaining children watching from the shore.

Here she is walking to great her fans at FMRA.

She was originally charged with a second-degree misdemeanor under Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act, which makes it illegal for people to “intentionally or negligently … molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.”

The hulking marine mammals, with their paddle-like forelimbs, have been on Florida’s endangered list since 1967, according to the Wildlife Advocacy Project.

But the FMRA has received approval from the State of Florida to have a “weekend of wild manatee riding” every year.  Once deputies realized that Gutierrez was a legitimate member of the organization, they realized her.

Authorities said they don’t believe the manatee was physically harmed, although the manatee seemed “happy.”