CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. — Strict federal and state laws bar people from harassing manatees, though there's one spot in Florida that allow humans to get a little closer to these special animals.

Just ask Mandy Egner, who got a big ol' sea cow hug.

Her cousin visiting from Ohio has never seen a manatee, so Egner on Friday decided to take her swimming with them.

The Crystal River and Kings Bay area is the only place in the state where swimmers are monitored for their manatee encounters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

One manatee, in particular, was very curious.

"She started off by hugging everybody's lets in our group of six, seven (people) ..." Egner said.

The animal gets even closer.

"I was hoping we would get a chance to see a manatee, I never thought I would be wrapped up in the manatee hug and being flipped out of the water on her belly," Egner said.

Anyone convicted of violating Florida law protecting manatees, including intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass or disturb, faces a fine up to $500 and prison time.

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