FWC’s Dramatic Rescue of Mother and Calf Manatees (No food for 26 days!)

Mother and calf manatee without food for 26 days, rescued by Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC).

manatee rescue

Photo by: FWC

One of Florida's most well known natural wildlife is the manatee. The endangered sea cow faces a lot of trouble in the state's waters, mostly from boats. In fact, many manatees have permanent scars from boat propellers striking them.

However, September's Hurricane Hermine stirred up even more trouble for the animals when a mother and cub manatee were washed inland in a remote area of Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. They were stranded for 26 days until rescue arrived from the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC).

Due to their massive size and secluded location, drastic measures had to be taken and the clock was ticking.  Awwducational was able to speak with Karen Parker, a veteran with FWC who was onsite during the rescue.

Watch the video of their amazing rescue below.

Manatee rescue from a pothole: Short version 1 from My FWC on Vimeo.

The Rescue

According to Karen Parker, the stranded mother and child were first found 1.5 miles inland during debris clean up in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area following Hurricane Hermine. The sea cows were in a secluded area which made just getting to them a challenge. Due to being without food for so long the mother was extremely thin (as far as manatees go). The FWC found them in brackish water and the mother was unable to submerge. She had not eaten in 26 days. Luckily, however, she was still able to nurse her young calf.

sea cow calf rescue

Photo by: FWC

The mother was removed with a sling and an intimidating tractor called an excavator. Mom was over 9 feet long and weighed in at only 1,100 pounds. This may sound like a lot, but she should have tipped the scales at 1,400-1,600! The calf was able to be carried out with the assistance of several rescuers. Both were escorted to a truck a quarter of a mile away. Biologists and veterinarians were then able to examine the pair. They were examined by members of the University of Florida Veterinarian School and found to be in good health, aside from being hungry.

The excavator operator who initially found the stranded manatees, found them in the road while clearing debris nearby. At first he believed them to be a log. When he realized it was an animal he contacted local biologists. The biologist identified the animals as manatees and got the rescue underway.

To make things worse, the rescuers, once they were finally able to reach the manatees, had to deal with both cell and radio failures. All told, it was quite an effort which spanned several hours, included the combined efforts of 22 rescuers and volunteers(seen below), and was made up of groups consisting of the FWC, Gulf World Marine Institute, U.S. Geological Survey, Emerald Coast Wildlife Rescue, and the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.


manatee rescue team

Team Manatee Rescue. Photo by: Karen Parker with FWC

Tagging for the future

Most manatees, like these two, are tagged when rescued by the U.S Geological Surve. This helps to gather information so we can learn more about these magnificent creatures. Thanks to tagging, over the next few days, rescuers were able to track the mother and cub sea cows who traveled to the Gulf, heading towards the Fenholloway River (a common area for these animals). Both mother and cub exhibited normal manatee behavior on the journey.

In the future, the rescuers will continue to be able to check in on the movements and habitats of the manatees. All the data collected goes towards better understanding how a manatee lives, what they require in the habitats, and how to better protect them.

What you can do to help

1966 was the year the manatee was first labeled as endangered. Now, thanks to conservation efforts of groups like FWC,  there are over 6,000 in the wild today. However, this fantastic comeback has a catch. The more manatees there are, the more incidents between humans and manatees also grow. While manatee rescues from flooding are rare, manatee rescues in general are not.

Florida residents can do a lot to help save and protect the manatee!

  • Start off by purchasing a manatee license plate; the money goes towards rescues and research.
  • If you ever see a manatee hurt or stranded, make sure to call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text tip@MyFWC.com. The earlier the report is made the better chance the animals will have!
  • Whether you're a state resident or a guest visiting Florida beaches, always make sure to clean up your mess.
  • Take part in clean up events or take the time to educate others.
  • If you head out on a boat, it is vital that you obey all water signs avoiding shallow areas and seagrass and never touch the GPS trackers.
  • Boats should also use a propeller guard when possible and drive slower to give the manatees time to move out of the way.

Whether you live around the world or right in Florida next to the manatees, there is plenty you can do to help the manatee. Most important of all: education. To learn more, visit the FWC website and check out their facebook page.

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