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CAPE CORAL | Watch the work to free a 1,600-pound manatee

Crews take hours to catch and release a manatee and her calf after Idalia made the water levels swell
Posted at 6:56 PM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 18:56:02-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A morning for the rescue, with teamwork to send a family to freedom.

Crews with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Manatee Rescue battled through nearly a ton of a mama manatee, through muscle and technology, to see the manatee and her calf on Wednesday, just off Burnt Store Road in Cape Coral.

“The banks along that creek were not really amenable to us setting nets and pulling the animals up the bank,” said Denise Boys, a researcher with FWC.. Garrett briefed the team before lifting the calf and her mother, a 1,600-pound manatee, into an FWC boat. Crews said the manatees got stuck swimming over a small dam in a creek as water levels were higher after Hurricane Idalia late last month.

“There was a lot of debris that could have gotten caught in the nets with the animals,” Boyd said of the extra challenge in working to free them.

The team responded through what is called “triaging” – making noise by splashing and also operating a small boat motor to guide the manatees into their net. With no shoreline to drag them onto, the extra battle was just getting them out.

Once on shore, the humans had to keep the manatees in the shade, with another week of near-record heat in Southwest Florida. The mother manatee spent time in the shade, even with the need to moisturize her skin and her calf in a small pool inside of a transport truck.

“Their health checked out really well as part of their health assessment,” said Boyd. “They do get a blood draw, we do collect urine and several other samples. This is wonderful to see people get together to take care of an animal because they don’t have anybody to protect them.”

The end of the adventure coming soon after, with the release at the Burnt Store Boat Ramp. A final dose of human strength to let the mother and calf into the water’s edge, the calf followed the mother to freedom, disappearing back into water. Back into safety.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to remind people to call their hotline if they spot a manatee, or other marine life, stuck. That number is (888) 404-3922.