Skip to Content

Florida officials say Ryan Waterman, 21, of Ft. Pierce, posted Facebook images of himself and two kids petting, lifting, and sitting on a manatee calf.

He was arrested.

Man Charged After Hugging Manatee

An arrest warrant was issued based on the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which makes it illegal to injure, harm, harass, capture or attempt to capture one.

“This was a young manatee which was likely still dependent on its mother for food and protection,” FWC manatee biologist Dr. Thomas Reinert said.

“Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf.”


“The calf also appeared to be experiencing manatee cold-stress syndrome, a condition that can lead to death in extreme cases,” added Reinert.

“Taking the calf out of the water may have worsened its situation.”

If convicted, Ryan Waterman reportedly faces a $500 fine and a maximum 60 days in jail, spokeswoman Katie Purcell told the Palm Beach Post.

This is not the first time a Floridian has mounted a sea cow.

Just this last October, a St. Petersburg woman was photographed riding a manatee just off-shore and was arrested after she turned herself in to police.

The state has strict laws for the Florida manatee, listed as an endangered species since 1967. Yet the marine mammals are still very vulnerable.

More than 100 have died in 2013 already; 11 died of human-related causes, 15 of cold stress, 37 of natural causes, and 25 deaths were undetermined.