Authorities in Maryland say a man was arrested on suspicion of attacking a federally protected animal after allegedly posting a Facebook video of himself wrestling a pelican recently while in the Florida Keys.
According to the Baltimore Sun, 31-year-old William Hunter Hardesty was identified as a suspect in the animal cruelty case after the viral video depicted a man in the water fighting the bird as other individuals appear to cheer him on.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission secured a warrant for his arrest and he was still being held as a fugitive by Maryland police at the Worcester County Detention Center as of the latest updates available.
Given the animal’s protected status in the state, it is illegal for anyone to feed or otherwise molest them, explained commission spokesman Bobby Dube.
After the initial post went on to be widely shared online, investigators say Hardesty went on to reference the incident in a number of subsequent posts.
One status update linked to an online fundraiser aiming to collect $20,000 — half of which he pledged to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.
Reports indicate Maryland State Police troopers tracked him down to a hotel in Ocean City on Friday morning and arrested him without incident. Florida authorities were informed of the development and were arranging for extradition as of the most recent reports available.
A judge set bond at $80,000 upon the suspect’s arrest and he is expected to face charges amounting to a total of five misdemeanor counts, according to Fox News.
[Featured image: William Hunter Hardesty, handout/video screenshot]