The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission charged Ryan William Waterman, 21, with the second-degree misdemeanor of violating the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which makes it illegal to intentionally "molest, harass or disturb" the marine mammals, WPTV-TV, West Palm Beach, Fla., reported Monday.
Manatees are considered an endangered species in Florida.
Officials said Waterman and two young children approached the manatee calf in Taylor Creek in St. Lucie County in January. Photographs showed the three petting the animal, Waterman partially lifting it up out of the water and one child even sitting on it, WPTV reported.
"An interaction that may seem harmless and innocent may ultimately have serious consequences for manatees and other wildlife," FWC officials said in a release.
"This was a young manatee which was likely still dependent on its mother for food and protection," said FWC manatee biologist Dr. Thomas Reinert in the release. "Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf."