Published: Feb 18, 2013 2:42 PM EST
Updated: Feb 18, 2013 4:41 PM EST

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla.- Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrested 21-year-old Ryan William Waterman, of Ft. Pierce, for allegedly approaching a manatee calf in Taylor Creek in St. Lucie County in January. Pictures on Facebook allegedly showed Waterman and two young children petting a manatee calf. They also show Waterman lifting the calf partially out of the water. One image even shows a child sitting on top of the manatee.

The State Attorney agreed with the charges filed by FWC Investigators and subsequently a warrant was issued for Waterman’s arrest.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act stipulates that it is illegal to injure, harm, harass, capture or attempt to capture a Florida manatee.

An interaction that may seem harmless and innocent may ultimately have serious consequences for manatees and other wildlife.

“This was a young manatee which was likely still dependant on its mother for food and protection,” said FWC manatee biologist Dr. Thomas Reinert. “Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf.”

“The calf also appeared to be experiencing manatee cold-stress syndrome, a condition that can lead to death in extreme cases,” said Reinert. “Taking the calf out of the water may have worsened its situation.”

The FWC asks anyone who witnesses manatee harassment or finds a dead or distressed manatee to please call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).