On Saturday, May 9, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and the Sarasota Police Department Marine Patrol responded to a call about a distressed manatee near Harbor Towers Yacht & Racquet Club on Siesta Key. Mote stranding biologist Jess Blackburn says that the manatee was exhibiting abnormal behavior, including not being able to dive properly; when she arrived at the scene, Blackburn contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) so an effort could begin to rescue the manatee.
“The manatee was listing to one side, and had both healed and fresh boat-strike wounds,” says Blackburn. “Those likely caused air to be trapped in her chest cavity, making it difficult for her to submerge efficiently. Given the busy area and heavy boat traffic, we knew it would be very difficult for her to avoid any other potential boat collisions.”
The FWC—along with additional trained responders from Mote, the Sarasota Police Department and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office—safely netted the 1,700-lb. manatee, placed her onto a boat and transferred her into a transport truck headed to SeaWorld Orlando, one of four critical-care facilities for manatees in the state of Florida and a member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP).
During the veterinary exam at SeaWorld Orlando, doctors discovered the rescued manatee was pregnant. Today, she gave birth to a healthy calf. SeaWorld Orlando’s rehabilitation team continues to monitor both manatees around the clock; the mother manatee is being treated for her injuries, and although stable, she is still in critical condition.
“These are the good days. When all of our partners come together—from our city, county, and state law enforcement officers, to the FWC stranding biologists that led the rescue, to the SeaWorld Orlando team now caring for her and her calf—it is our stranding network working at its finest,” says Gretchen Lovewell, manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program. “I also want to thank the members of the public who reported the animal. Always remember to call us for any distressed or deceased marine mammal or sea turtle in the Sarasota and Manatee County area, and FWC throughout the rest of Florida.”