Charges were filed this week in connection with a viral video that appears to show an Anne Arundel County man allegedly attacking a federally protected pelican in the Florida Keys
William Hunter Hardesty, 31, of Davidsonville, is wanted in Florida on charges of animal cruelty, illegally feeding a pelican and capturing a protected migratory bird twice, the Miami Herald reported.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said its officers had worked with prosecutors investigating the case and that charges were expected to be filed this week, according to a social media post. Messages left with the Florida state’s attorney pursuing the case were not immediately returned Thursday.
Hardesty allegedly posted the video last week to his Facebook profile. In the footage, Hardesty appears 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. The pelican snaps its beak across the man’s face, causing him to release the bird.
Hardesty did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Last week, Florida wildlife commission spokesman Officer Bobby Dube said the footage of the pelican 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 at the time.
Messages left with Dube Thursday were not immediately returned.
Law enforcement in Monroe County, Fla., said they received multiple tips from citizens in and out of the Florida Keys since the video went viral last week.
Hardesty has continued to post about the pelican incident on social media, including a link to a GoFundMe campaign to raise $20,000 for himself. The campaign pledges to donate half of the funds to the Florida Keys wild bird rehabilitation center, but does not specify what the remaining $10,000 will be used for.
On March 10, he posted “I’m so hungry I could eat a pelican!!” on Facebook. And on Wednesday he wrote “Thinking about gettin a pillican tattoo today,” followed by two smiling face emojis with horns.