The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is searching for information on the person or persons responsible for the harassment of a manatee discovered Sunday in the headwaters of the Homosassa River. The animal had the word “Trump” scraped into its back.
Craig Cavanna, senior federal wildlife officer and current investigating officer, said of the situation, “I cannot comment on a current, ongoing investigation.”
He added harassment of a manatee, protected by the Endangered Species Act, is a Class A, federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and/or up to one-year in federal prison.
The seasonal influx of the West Indian manatee is well known along the Nature Coast. The slow-moving, warm-blooded mammals seek sanctuary in the spring-fed waters along Citrus County’s coastline making them accessible to swimmers and boaters. Laws protect the animals from harassment by swimmers and those operating vessels.
“It’s been My experience that this is very out of character for this community," Cavanna said. "Wildlife conservation is a core value in Citrus County. That’s why it’s called the Nature Coast.”
As the investigation continues Cavanna said, “We are following leads.”
The USFWS is encouraging anyone with knowledge of the incident to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Information will be forwarded to the USFWS.