KEY WEST, Fla. – A man who jumped on top of a pelican while visiting the Florida Keys is now facing multiple charges, according to state wildlife officials.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Thursday that 31-year-old William Hunter Hardesty of Riva, Maryland will face two counts of animal cruelty along with other charges.
Hardesty posted video on his Facebook page that shows him standing on a dock while extending a fish out toward the water then when the bird approaches, he jumps on top of it, grabs it and lifts it out of the water.
He only releases the bird after it bites him in the face, the video shows. The pelican flew off but it's unclear if it was injured in any way.
FWC officials said the video was filmed on or about March 3 in Key West. As of Thursday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 130,000 times.
Wildlife officials announced Friday that Hardesty was taken into custody by Maryland police.
Suspect in the #pelican case has been arrested by @MDSP. We appreciate their assistance bringing this case to a swift resolution: https://t.co/jkD2k1VGsV #Florida #Maryland #news pic.twitter.com/Ye55MAAw8t— MyFWC (@MyFWC) March 15, 2019
If convicted of animal cruelty, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, Hardesty could face up to a year in jail.