The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is investigating a report that a manatee was discovered this weekend with “TRUMP” scratched on its back. The animal was filmed in the Homosassa River in Florida. The Citrus County Chronicle was the first to report the story, speaking with senior federal wildlife officer Craig Cavanna, who said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. He did say that the manatee is protected by the Endangered Species Act, which would make harassment of the animal a “federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and/or up to one-year in federal prison.”
The manatee was discovered on Sunday and recorded, photographed, and reported to authorities by Hailey Warrington. Warrington is a boat captain for a fishing charter company. Warrington told local news that she was “sickened, her stomach turned” when she found the animal. West Indian manatees are seasonal visitors to the coast. Warrington says she believes that there were no superficial wounds to the animal, a silver lining in a truly deplorable act.
The New York Times reports that the Center for Biological Diversity is offering $5,000 for information that would lead to a conviction “for the cruel and illegal mutilation” of the manatee. Fish and Wildlife says that there are around 6,300 manatees in and around Florida. More importantly, the slow-moving creatures are very prone to scarring, as run-ins with boats and other scarring occurrences have long been used by marine biologists and others to identify different manatees when researching and counting them.
By the time they are adults, many, maybe most, manatees have at least one permanent identifying mark, primarily a scar or mutilation from being hit by a boat. In clear waters like Crystal River, the evidence of repeated strikes [boats] is especially apparent.
However, while there have long been environmentalists working on creating safer speed laws for boats in the areas animals like manatees use, there is no work-around for some worthless vandal who decides to attack them to promote a failed dictator.
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