An investigation has been opened after a manatee in a Florida river had the word “TRUMP” written onto its side, officials said Monday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to know who defaced the animal in the headwaters of the Homosassa River in Citrus County. The manatee did not appear to be hurt, the agency said, because it seemed that the word was etched into algae on its body.
The manatee enjoys protection in state and federal law. Manatees, often referred to as sea cows, were on the endangered species list until 2017, when they were downgraded to a threatened species because of increased population growth.
Manatees move slowly, which has made them vulnerable to fishing nets, motorboat engines and human interaction.
The creature comes under shields of the national Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Federal conviction of harassing a manatee is punishable by a fine of $50,000 and up to a year in prison, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Fish and Wildlife asks that anyone with information call its wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477.
David K. Li contributed.