Lee County Man Arrested for Manatee Harassment
A St. James City man was arrested this week on charges related to harassment of manatees and other wildlife. Gary Stone, 68, was arrested on a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warrant and charged with disturbing marine turtle turtles, eggs or nests, which is a third-degree felony and harassment of manatees which is a second-degree misdemeanor and a violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Multiple search warrants of his home last year uncovered tens of thousands of photos and videos of Stone interacting with manatees. Stone has also shared some of those images and videos on his Facebook page, including images of Stone with his foot in a manatee’s mouth. His arrest warrant also says investigators found video and photo documentation of Stone possessing a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle in 2019.
Stone’s arrest follows numerous complaints about him to FWC in recent years. Stone says he’s been doing informal research on manatees for about the past ten years.
Stone remains in Lee County Jail on $10,000 bond. His arraignment is slated for April 19.
Touching manatees is considered harassment, as is any activity that alters their natural behavior. Manatees that become acclimated to human interaction can lose their natural fear of people and boats, putting them at greater risk.
For more information on how to safely view manatees click here.