Thanks to tips from concerned citizens, state troopers arrested a Maryland man in Worcester County this morning who is wanted by Florida officials on a charge of animal cruelty.
The suspect is identified as William Hunter Hardesty, 31, of Davidsonville, Md. He 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. He is currently being held as a fugitive in the Worcester County Detention Center.
Troopers arrested Hardesty shortly after 9:00 a.m. today at a hotel in the 12000-block of Ocean Gateway, in Ocean City, Md. He was processed at the Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack. Hardesty was taken before a court commissioner for a bond hearing and then transported to the detention center, where he will await extradition to Florida. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has been notified of the arrest and is initiating extradition proceedings.
A video showing a man in Florida luring and then jumping on top of a pelican in the water was posted on social media. Florida authorities investigated and obtained an arrest warrant for Hardesty.
Maryland State Police at the Berlin Barrack were contacted this morning by concerned citizens who said they believed the individual in the video was staying at the Ocean City hotel. Troopers were told the individual was bragging to them about being wanted for feeding and tackling a pelican in the Florida Keys.
In several Facebook posts, Hardesty taunts the controversy surrounding his actions as well as the hundreds of people commenting on his page!
And even after knowing that an arrest warrant was being prepared:
Troopers confirmed the extraditable arrest warrant with Florida law enforcement. They responded to the hotel and, after identifying Hardesty, arrested him without incident.
Hardesty also caused many issue with his former employer who he lists as current on his Facebook profile. The business, JW Frew Electric, took a beating on Facebook (as did Hardesty) and set the clear the record. Hardesty had not worked there for years. In fact, they made a $500 donation to the Key West Wildlife Center.
Hardesty’s father told NBC4 in Washington that he had been receiving death threats and claimed his son woudl never harm an animal as he is a fisherman. The senior Hardesty said that if a warrant were issued for his arrest, he’d drive him to Florida to turn himself in.
Separately, a GoFund me page has been set up titles “Hunters Pelican Apology” stating that the bird was not harmed and that Hardesty woudl never hurt an animal. The fund, set up by Ben Millz is seeking $20,000 so Hardesty can buy a boat! Hardesty shared the fundraiser on his Facebook page as well.
To date, it has raised $110.