SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
A rehabilitated manatee mother and her calf are back home in the Sarasota Bay after weeks of recovery following a boating injury.
On May 8 and 9, both Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium Stranding Investigations Program received reports to their respective 24/7 hotlines about a distressed manatee along the bayside of Siesta Key. The manatee was exhibiting abnormal behavior, including not being able to dive properly, and had both fresh and healed boat strike wounds. On May 9, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium Stranding Investigations Program staff along with the Sarasota Police Department, responded to the call and confirmed the manatee was in distress.
Gretchen Lovewell, a Stranding Investigations Manager at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium says, “Mote was there to help with the rescue and help with the release. Our colleagues at FWC led the rescue and organized it all. Then SeaWorld did all the amazing work to get her rehabbed and back out here. The fact that we are here in just over a month from when we rescued her is really remarkable and amazing.”
During the veterinarian exam at SeaWorld Orlando, the animal was found to be pregnant. On Tuesday, May 11, the manatee gave birth to a healthy male calf. SeaWorld Orlando’s expert team of veterinarians and staff were able to provide around-the-clock care for mother and calf, who have recently been released back into their natural habitat.
“They should reacclimate very nicely to going right back out in the wild. We’ve seen with other rescues that they do remarkably well,” says Denise Boyd, Marine Research Associate at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The scars are expected to live with the mother manatee forever, which will become unique identifying marks for those keeping track of her progress.
“Unfortunately, that’s how we tell all of our manatees apart, by generally boat scars that they acquire throughout their lifetime. So, we have teams with the state and here at Mote that keep track of these animals in the wild,” says Lovewell.
Across the Suncoast, it is quite rare for manatees to be rescued and given a second chance at life. Lovewell says, “We get about 2-5 a year, and we aren’t always on the release end. So, considering that we were able to assist and get two manatees back into the wild, that was pretty special.”
Citizens can report dead and distressed marine mammals in Sarasota to Mote’s 24/7 hotline (941-988-0212) and throughout the rest of Florida to FWC’s 24/7 hotline (888-404-3922).