As manatees migrate, rescuers ready to step in

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s the time of year when manatees travel south for the winter in search of warmer water.

Just last week, a manatee died before it could be rescued from Huguenot Park and two others were pulled from dangerously cold waters off St. Simons Island.

Recently another manatee was rescued from Mayport and taken to the Jacksonville Zoo.

These mammals make a run for warmer water once the water temperature drops below 68° and sometimes they get stuck in a cold spot and become cold stressed.

“He likely came from either Charleston or Savanah and tried to make a run to where he needs to be in Florida and didn’t make it,” said Craig Miller, curator of mammals at the Jacksonville Zoo.

This particular manatee was found dehydrated, stressed and thin at roughly 940 pounds. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission started treatments right away at the zoo.

“It was a lot of work. That first 24 hours was every 4 hours we were treating him,” said Miller.

Miller is cautiously optimistic that the manatee will be released back into the wild at some point but says they usually stay a few months to be nursed back to health.

On Monday, those who reported and helped rescue the manatee even paid him a visit to see how he was doing.

“The whole thing was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to rescue a manatee and then to see him doing really well in rehabilitation so he can be released back out into the wild," said James Griffin, public affairs officer with Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two. “It’s nice. He’s gaining weight. He’s looking healthier. It’s a good feeling.”

If you do come across a manatee this winter and it seems to be distressed, the FWC urges you to call their hotline 1-888-404-FWCC so they can send a biologist out to check out the manatee.

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