Story at a glance
- Witnesses reported seeing the animal Sunday in the Blue Hole headwaters of the Homosassa River in Citrus County, Fla.
- Video of the manatee shows the word "Trump" etched into the animal's back.
- The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday said it was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person, or people, responsible.
Federal wildlife officials are investigating after a manatee was spotted in Florida over the weekend with the word “Trump” etched in algae on the animal's back.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opened an investigation into the incident after witnesses reported seeing the animal Sunday in the Blue Hole headwaters of the Homosassa River in Citrus County.
Video of the manatee shows large letters scrawled across its back in the form of the president’s name.
“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the harassment of a manatee...reported to federal authorities over the weekend discovered w/ words "Trump" scraped in its back ...discovered in Blue Hole on the Homosassa River” (via @CitrusChronicle )— (@exavierpope) January 11, 2021
Insurrectioning wildlife? pic.twitter.com/PvzI3pZ5Xn
Investigators are searching for any information on whoever is responsible.
Animal advocacy group the Center for Biological Diversity on Monday said it was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person, or people, responsible.
"Manatees aren't billboards, and people shouldn't be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason," Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "However this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it's a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws."
Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and harassment of the species is a federal criminal offense that is punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
The warm-blooded mammals migrate to the spring-fed waters along the county’s western coastline seasonally, making them easily accessible to swimmers and boaters, according to the Citrus County Chronicle.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest information about the algae used to write on the manatee.
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