HOMOSASSA SPRINGS, Fla. — State and federal wildlife officials are investigating reports of a manatee found with “Trump” drawn on its back in a Florida river.
The aquatic mammal was spotted over the weekend in the Homosassa River in Citrus County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed. The area is about 80 miles north of Tampa.
“West Indian manatees are essential members of the ecosystems in which they inhabit and are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith said in a statement.
The manatee does not appear to be seriously injured, officials said. It appears that the word was written in algae that had grown on the animal’s back, not scratched into its skin.
Wildlife officials are looking for any information regarding the animal’s harassment. Tips can be reported at 888-404-3922. The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group that protects endangered animals, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
Harassing a manatee, a federal crime, is punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.