By Elizabeth Zwirz
Published March 15, 2019
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.
Troopers apprehended the suspect, William Hunter Hardesty, 31, at an Ocean City, Md., hotel, a news release from the Maryland State Police said.
Hardesty is accused of attempting to catch the migratory bird while at the Key West Historic Seaport on March 5. A video of the incident was shared on Hardesty’s Facebook earlier this month.
The video showed a man who appeared to have a fish in his hand as he leaned over the water near the edge of a harbor. He then jumped off the harbor and landed on top of the pelican. The man briefly managed to catch hold of the bird before the animal ultimately hit him with its beak and broke free.
Hardesty “was arrested on a warrant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that charges him with animal cruelty to migratory birds and the intentional feeding of pelicans,” state police said.
Authorities were able to arrest the suspect with the help of “concerned citizens” who said they thought the man in the recording was a hotel guest, police said.
“Troopers were told the individual was bragging to them about being wanted for feeding and tackling a pelican in the Florida Keys,” authorities said. “Troopers confirmed the extraditable arrest warrant with Florida law enforcement. They responded to the hotel and, after identifying Hardesty, arrested him without incident.”
Following his arrest, Hardesty was brought to the Worcester County Detention Center and is waiting to be extradited to Florida, police said. The suspect is being held at the detention center “as a fugitive,” authorities said.
Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.