FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Charlie Freeman has been living on his boat at the Egans Creek Marina in Fernandina Beach for eight years, but he's never seen anything like what he saw on Monday night.
When he arrived at his boat after dinner Monday he was greeted by a group of manatees that were feeding on the grass on the end of the dock. While two of the large marine mammals looked normal, one of the manatees had something wrapped around its midsection. Upon closer inspection, Freeman realized it was an old bike tire.
Freeman, the dockmaster at the marina, told News4Jax Tuesday that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was aware of the manatee and had received two reports about it for the last three weeks.
Freeman said he thought better about jumping in the water and trying to remove the tire because of the size and power of the manatee. He also thought the tire might be difficult to remove because of where it is positioned.
"Plus I am too old for that," he said.
FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker said officials tried to look for the manatee Tuesday but were unable to locate it. According to Parker, an FWC biologist said the manatee does not appear to be in immediate danger because the tire isn't tight and the manatee doesn't appear to be injured.
FWC plans to find the manatee as soon as possible and free it from the tire, Parker said.
Anyone who sees the manatee should report the sighting online at MyFWC.com or call 888-404-3922.