Man who tackled Pelican in Florida Keys arrested on animal cruelty charges

Hardesty tackles a pelican

Hardesty tackles a pelican

A Maryland man who had a warrant out for his arrest in Florida for animal cruelty stemming from an alleged encounter with a federally protected pelican was taken into custody Friday morning, state police said.

William Hunter Hardesty, 31, wanted on a warrant from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was taken into custody at a hotel in Ocean City.

Florida police began investigating after a social-media post surfaced showing a man jumping on top of a pelican in a body of water. He is now being held as a fugitive in the Worcester County Detention Center.

The video shows him using a fish to lure the pelican closer to him as he stands on a dock.

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On Friday, the Maryland state police said they were contacted by members of the public who said they thought the man in the video was staying at a hotel in Ocean City.

He then emerges from the water with two hands around the bird, which snapped at Hardesty's face with its bill before flying away.

Florida investigators were not amused, and the FWC issued a 10-page warrant for his arrest on charges of animal cruelty to a migratory bird and intentionally feeding a pelican. The paper reported that he allegedly started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $20,000, pledging to donate half the money to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.

Troopers arrested Hardesty shortly after 9:00 a.m. today at a hotel in the 12000-block of Ocean Gateway, in Ocean City, Md. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office was notified of the arrest and has initiated extradition proceedings.

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