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Man Jailed for Attacking Federally Protected Pelican in Keys

A Maryland man is being held on an $80 thousand bond in a Key West jail after allegedly abusing a federally protected pelican
Thirty-one-year-old William Hardesty was booked in a Key West jail late Monday after returning to Florida to face charges.
He had been arrested in Maryland on March 15th when a video surfaced of him leaping onto a pelican in the Key West Historic Seaport.
Hardesty is accused of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Acting on tips from the public, troopers took 31-year-old William Hunter Hardesty into custody on March 15th. He was wanted on a warrant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for animal cruelty to migratory birds and the intentional feeding of pelicans. Hardesty is being held as a fugitive.

A viral video shows Hardesty luring and then jumping on a pelican in the water. He seems to lean over a harbor’s edge while holding something in his hand. As the pelican floats closer, Hardesty jump on top of the pelican, causing both to momentarily go underwater.

When they re-emerge, Hardesty is grasping the bird with both hands while off-camera witnesses are heard laughing. The pelican then snaps its beak across Hardesty’s face, causing the man to release the bird.

The brown pelican species is protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Florida state law. It prohibits people from feeding or molesting the birds, according to Florida Wildlife Commission spokesman Officer Bobby Dube.

After the video went viral, Hardesty established a link to a GoFundMe campaign in order to raise $20,000 for himself. He had pledged to donate half of the funds to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, but did not specify for what he would use the remaining $10,000.

One week ago, he posted “I’m so hungry I could eat a pelican!!” on his Facebook page. Last Wednesday, he wrote, “Thinking about gettin a pillican [sic] tattoo today,” along with two smiling face emojis with horns.

According to police officials in Maryland, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Florida is initiating extradition proceedings.