(KMOX) - A manatee discovered in Florida over the weekend is either a big supporter of President Donald Trump, or someone has assaulted the creature by scraping the word "Trump" into its back, officials say. There's a $5,000 reward being offered for information that leads to conviction.
Federal wildlife officials have launched an investigation into the discovery, which occurred Sunday in the Homosassa River's Blue Hole, Citrus County officials say.
"This was uncharacteristic for our area," says underwater tour guide Hailey Warrington, who found the violated manatee. "As a tour guide, I was distraught, just as much -- if not more than -- the manatee was."
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the charge "harassment of a manatee" carries a punishment of up to one year in prison and a $50,000 fine.
The Center for Biological Diversity announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of who scratched the president's name into the manatee's back.
Senior federal wildlife officer Craig Cavanna is leading the investigation and is encouraging anyone with knowledge of the incident to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Photos and video of the carved mammal are going viral on social media:
A report from the Citrus County Chronicle explains that the "slow-moving, warm-blooded mammals seek sanctuary in the spring-fed waters along Citrus County’s coastline making them accessible to swimmers and boaters."
Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1963 and most years boat mortality makes up about 20% of known human-caused deaths.