Why do people film themselves doing reckless things with no regard for the safety and well being of humans and animals alike?
That’s not an easy question to answer, and the latest tale of viral fame gone awry should serve as a lesson for us all.
Hunter Hardesty, a 31-year-old Marylander, has been charged with animal cruelty and molestation of a protected species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after he was filmed tackling and wrestling a pelican after using a fish to lure it in the water close to a dock at a Key West marina.
The 20-second-video can be seen below. You can clearly see the pelican attempting to escape. A woman can also be heard threatening to call the police.
Hardesty, what did that poor pelican do to you? Nothing, obviously. It merely existed. It was there! Isn’t that reason enough? /sarcasm
The video angered many, particularly in the time leading up to Hardesty’s arrest. Can you blame them?
Hunter Hardesty is a law-breaking moron and an embarrassment to the people of Maryland. Must also be embarrassing for the Maryland Police as he is still at large. What will he do next? https://t.co/tSgI0Iwq0i— kristina (@krysiuniaw5) March 11, 2019
This is Hunter Hardesty, from Maryland. He lured a #pelican to a pier in Key West #florida with fish, then jumped on him. HARD! Pelicans are protected. He broke the law. And is a jerk. Please arrest him. RT to get police to move on this.— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) March 11, 2019
Here's the videohttps://t.co/qt0wf6xrE7 pic.twitter.com/DVLyy2iBTb
Wow! Hunter Hardesty is a real fuking asshole! To bait then jump on top of a pelican because he thought it was funny?— Laura Zingheim (@zingheim_laura) March 11, 2019
What a juvenile piece of trash!
I hope they DO bring federal charges and make an example if this dickwad! It's just too bad the pelican got his neck not an eye!
Wow! Fuck you @HunterHardesty - Pelicans are endangered species you ignorant piece of shit!— Spike - Gym Unicorn (@DingoDawgUSMC) March 11, 2019
So this moron that pounced on a #pelican & posted to FB, has been arrested.— Sherry Sherry (@Sherrysherry1) March 16, 2019
He also now has a GoFundMe page setup to help him buy a boat!
He wants $20k...
On FB he says he works at a company he hasn't worked at in years,
but the co has been harassed.https://t.co/5IlBQT1k4V
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement via Facebook which read in part:
Sheriff Rick Ramsay received multiple tips from citizens and residents in and out of the Florida Keys since the video went viral on the Internet. Sheriff Ramsay shared that information with the FWC, who announced Monday were in the process of preparing a warrant on two criminal charges — animal cruelty and molestation of a protected species.
There are also other pictures and videos of the same suspect and other animals that have been posted on the Internet. Those pictures and videos are part of the ongoing investigation. One picture shows a man holding what appears to be a Key Deer. Key Deer and the pelican in the viral video are federally protected and federal law enforcement authorities told Sheriff Ramsay they are also investigating the suspect.
Criminal charges to be filed after pelican incident The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission informed...Posted by MCSO - Florida Keys on Monday, March 11, 2019
Sheriff Ramsay himself condemned Hardesty’s actions and vowed to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
“I shared the anger of those who contacted me regarding this video,” he said. This type of behavior — the abuse of animals — will not be tolerated on my watch and I know our law enforcement partners at the FWC and at the federal level share that mindset. I would like to thank those who quickly brought to this my attention and to the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office and the FWC who responded quickly.”
An investigation is continuing into whether Hardesty harmed other animals after pictures surfaced on social media.
More photos of Hunter Hardesty doing things he shouldn’t with animals he shouldn’t. pic.twitter.com/fXYSn5zw0w— realityTVcommentator (@opeeniun) March 10, 2019
Ramsay says more charges could be filed.
And in case you haven’t figured this out yet: Don’t harass the local wildlife. It doesn’t pay.