Literally. Harassing pelicans & other wildlife is illegal in Florida. It is unfortunate that Hunter Hardesty, of Davidson, Maryland, it such a poor example of a human being that he would first lure, then JUMP ON a wild pelican for a Facebook photo op. But here he is. So let’s take a quick look at what laws he may have broken.
Don’t Feed the Birds
Intentional feeding or the placement of food that attracts pelicans and modifies the natural behavior of the pelican so as to be detrimental to the survival or health of a local population is prohibited.Florida Administrative Code 68A-4.001
Even beyond the law, feeding wild water birds like this Brown Pelican is bad for them – and not just from jerks like Hunter Hardesty jumping on top of them. The University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension, has an excellent explanatory publication:
Cruelty to Animals
A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, commits animal cruelty, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.Florida Statute 828.12
The video clearly shows Hunter Hardesty tormenting this pelican; treating it in a cruel and inhumane manner.
The brown pelican was delisted in the United States in 1985 and the current brown pelican now exceeds historical numbers. However, this species is still considered endangered throughout the rest of its range.U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
So Hunter Hardesty may not have broken any U.S. laws protecting endangered species, he certainly doesn’t regain any ethical ground with his stunt. The National Audubon Society includes the brown pelican on it’s “Climate Endangered” list, as does the Endangered Species Coalition. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes:
Brown pelicans were almost entirely lost from North America between 1950 and 1970…
Modern threats to brown pelicans include oil spills and pollution, human disturbance of nesting colonies, and entanglement in fishing gear or debris.U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Social media shaming can be misused, but in this case I do hope Hunter Hardesty will face charges and public censure for his actions. This isn’t a matter of “did he or didn’t he”. He chose to record & share his harassment & endangerment of a hapless brown pelican on Facebook, then followed it up with this gem:
For more information about protecting Florida’s wildlife and environment, I recommend another publication from University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation: