Manatee rescue teams from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium captured and released a stranded manatee Wednesday.
The animal was first reported by St. Petersburg Police Officer Courtney Zack on May 31st, who recalled an interrupted lunch break.
"A teenager about 17, 18 years old who had been fishing down here said that there was a manatee that was stuck," Zack said.
She shared a couple of photos she took that day and said "everyday I'm working, I try to come and find him, see if he's OK."
Wildlife officials were hoping the manatee would find its own way out of a large catch basin built beside Clam Bayou near the southernmost point of Pinellas County. They think he climbed into the basin.
"Manatees can actually go in pretty shallow water and climb around. They have very strong pectoral muscles and they can climb over stuff sometimes," state manatee rescue coordinator Andy Garrett explained. "We'll talk to the city and see if there's something else that can be done, maybe raise that wall just a little bit, because certainly we haven't had any major storm surge from a tropical storm...so it's our concern that maybe during a tropical storm it could really let a bunch of animals in here."
Wednesday's rescue exhibited Garrett's interest in preventative measures. The capture involved a couple of dozen professionals and volunteers, a fair amount of swimming and treading water, a very large and heavy net, and eventually the hauling of a legless animal weighing an estimated 1,000 pounds up and embankment and into the shade.
"All we're doing now is just assessing it, we're going to do a little bit of a work up and get some measurements and insert microchips," Garrett said.
The adult male manatee was in good health and did not require any rehabilitation. By early afternoon, he became the most unusual object to be launched from the nearby Maximo Park boat ramp.
"Keep it supported, keep it supported...keep going," Garrett instructed the people carrying the animal on a stretcher, down the ramp and into the water.
Then with one mighty flip of his tail, the manatee was free -- and gone.
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