Man who tackled a pelican is now wanted by Keys police on animal cruelty charges

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of the Maryland man accused of trying to capture a brown pelican at a Key West marina.

William Hunter Hardesty, 21, spent about 12 minutes trying to capture a brown pelican while at the Key West Historic Seaport on March 5. He posted the only video of him tackling the bird on his Facebook page on March 8, tagging himself in Key West.

“The third and only successful attempt Mr. Hardesty makes to capture a brown pelican is the one posted on his Facebook page,” the warrant states.

Hardesty, who has a criminal history of assault in his native Maryland, is wanted on charges of animal cruelty, illegally feeding pelican and capturing a protected migratory bird twice.

“He’ll be arrested on the charges in the warrant and he’ll be formally charged at an arraignment when he comes before the court,” Monroe State Attorney Dennis Ward said on Thursday,

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers investigated the incident, producing a 10-page warrant detailing the allegations.

They said the incident began at 6 p.m. on March 5. At one point, a man is seen holding Hardesty’s feet as Hardesty dangles from the dock. Eventually, he ends up in the water.

State wildlife officers found security camera footage that confirms the pelican attack and they found a witness, Valerie Shipley, who is heard on the video telling Hunter, “Excuse me. If you don’t get out of there right now I will be calling security.”

Sish and Wildlife spokesman Bobby Dube didn’t immediately return a call Thursday morning.

But Ward said he isn’t sure if police know where Hardesty is.

“They do not,” Ward said. “I think he’s back up in Maryland.”

Ward said the pelican attack will be taken seriously by Florida Keys residents and law enforcement.

“It’s like all of our natural resources down here,” Ward said. “We’re very protective of them and they’re all very valuable to our environment down here.”