Florida Wildlife investigators are looking for the person responsible for spelling out the word "Trump" on a wild manatee's back near the Gulf Coast, according to reports. The alarming discovery was made by a tour boat captain who was careening through the waters of the Homosassa River when she spotted the letters on the sea mammal's body, Citrus County Chronicle reported.
“This is just disturbing. One hundred percent disturbing,” Hailey Warrington, the captain who captured the defaced manatee, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Warrington told the Herald-Tribune that she first noticed the sleeping animal while on a tour, and the layer of algae covering its skin was "pretty thick." The word appeared to be written in algae and made it down to the level of its skin, but didn't seem to leave a wound.
"It's something we don't see very often. When we do see it, it hurts our heart."
Both U.S and Florida Wildlife Service authorities are working closely to investigate the incident, the Washington Post reported.
A Senior federal wildlife officer and the current investigating officer would not comment to the Post on the ongoing investigation. However, harassment of a manatee is a federal criminal offense punishable for up to a $50,000 fine and the potential of a year in prison, the outlet wrote.
Since 1973, manatees have been a protected species under the Endangered Species Act and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They were then moved to "threatened," but scientists still consider the species to be severely at risk. There are an estimated 13,000 manatees, with more than 6,500 in the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico, according to Fish and Wildlife Services.
As early as 1991, there were 1,267 manatees in Florida. Nearly 25 years later, there has been an increase in the state with over 6,300 West Indian manatees.
“It’s been my experience that this is very out of character for this community," Cavanna told the Chronicle. "Wildlife conservation is a core value in Citrus County. That’s why it’s called the Nature Coast.”
As the investigation continues, Cavanna added, “We are following leads.”
“Endangered species are not billboards to be defaced,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Post. “What happened to that manatee was wrong and unlawful and the guilty party should be held accountable.”