The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was investigating a Maryland man who was videotaped tackling a federally protected pelican. The video was posted online on Thursday and soon went viral.
Hunter Hardesty, of Davidsonville, was seen in the video leaning over the water near the edge of a harbor that was geotagged to the Florida Keys. Hardesty reportedly enticed the pelican and then jumped on it, launching a scuffle. Some people were heard in the video laughing. The bird then slapped Hardesty across the face with its beak and fled.
FWC Commission officer and spokesman Bobby Dube said authorities were considering possible animal cruelty charges against Hardesty.
“We never want to harm wildlife, and that’s what he was doing,” Dube said. “He was enticing the pelican and then jumped on it.”
The pelican species seen in the video was protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Florida state law, which prohibit people from feeding or molesting the bird.
“The intentional feeding or the placement of food that attracts pelicans and modifies the natural behavior of the pelican so as to be detrimental to the survival or health of a local population is prohibited,” the rule states.
After Hardesty shared the video on his Facebook page, many users slammed him for the “cruel” act.
“You’re an idiot, Florida fish and game has already been contacted. They will be in touch shortly you moron,” posted user Chris M. Capps, of Key Largo. “I am a huge bird lover and advocate,” wrote user Deanna Graveline. “I will legit get it my car.. come capture u like so and rip your head off.”
In response to the criticism, Hardesty wrote in the comments section: “Next time ima eat him for dinner!! Wonder what they taste like.”