Florida

Man who jumped on pelican in the Keys — and Facebooked it — will face charges, police say

Maryland man posts Facebook video of himself attacking pelican in Key West FL

A Maryland man visiting Key West posted a video of himself jumping into the water off a marina and manhandling a pelican, which fought back with its beak and nipped him in the face.
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A Maryland man visiting Key West posted a video of himself jumping into the water off a marina and manhandling a pelican, which fought back with its beak and nipped him in the face.

The Maryland man who made viral headlines after he posted a video of himself on Facebook pouncing on a pelican at a Key West marina will be charged with animal cruelty and molestation of a protected species, police said Monday.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay on Monday that they are in the process of filing two criminal charges against a man seen in the video jumping on the state and federally protected pelican, said Ramsay’s spokesman, Adam Linhardt.

Hunter Hardesty, 31, of Davidsonville, Maryland, posted the video on March 7 on his Facebook page.

“I shared the anger of those who contacted me regarding this video,” Ramsay said Monday. “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.”

The video shows a man with a fish appearing to lure a pelican near him as he stands on a dock. The man then leaps directly on top of the bird and into the water. The man surfaces holding the bird with two hands and then the bird snaps at the man’s face with its bill and flies away.

FWC, though, is still drawing up the warrants and no one has been arrested or charged yet, FWC spokesman Bobby Dube said Monday afternoon.

“There’s been no warrants filed yet,” Dube said. “It’s still being investigated.”

Hardesty is no longer in the Keys.

“He’s back home in Maryland,” Dube said. “If you look at his Facebook page, he’s one of those guys that doesn’t care. We’ll have to wait.”

Ramsay received multiple tips from citizens and residents in and out of the Florida Keys since the video went viral on the internet. He shared that information with the FWC, which Ramsay said was 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 holding other animals that have been posted online. Those pictures and videos are part of the ongoing investigation. One picture shows a man holding what appears to be a Key deer, Linhardt said.

Key deer and the pelican are federally protected.

Dube said the FWC is likely looking into the deer photo as well but he hadn’t seen it as of midday Monday.

Hardesty has a criminal record in his native Maryland.

In 2017, Hardesty pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and a felony robbery charge was dropped, according to Maryland court records. Hardesty was sentenced to a year in jail with all but 60 days suspended.

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Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.
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