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Maryland man appears to attack federally protected pelican in viral video

The Baltimore Sun

An Anne Arundel County man may be facing legal trouble after he posted a video to social media Thursday that appears to show him attacking a federally protected pelican in the Florida Keys.

Hunter Hardesty of Davidsonville posted the widely criticized video Thursday to his Facebook account, which was geotagged to Key West, Fla. The video begins with Hardesty appearing to lean over a harbor’s edge holding out something in his hand. The pelican floats closer, and Hardesty appears to jump into the water on top of the pelican, causing both to dunk beneath the water’s surface.

When the two re-emerge, Hardesty appears to grasp the bird with two hands while others not pictured on camera can be heard laughing.

A woman not pictured asks Hardesty to get out of the water or else she would call authorities. The pelican seizes on opportunity and snaps its beak across the man’s face, causing him to release the bird.

Hardesty did not return a request for comment Saturday.

Many on social media lashed out at the stunt on Hardesty’s personal Facebook page, calling the move cruel and stating they had reported him to Florida law enforcement.

In the video’s comments, Hardesty wrote “Next time ima eat him for dinner !! Wonder what they taste like.”

The investigative department of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working with the state’s attorneys to determine what charges might be appropriate, said Officer Bobby Dube, a spokesman for the commission’s Florida Keys division.

“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.”

Dube said the footage appeared to take place at the Key West Seaport and features a brown pelican. That species is protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Florida state law, which prohibit people from feeding or molesting the bird, he said.

Authorities are considering whether animal cruelty charges are appropriate, Dube said.

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