Although our focus is whales and dolphins, we will never say "no" to helping out with our other marine mammal friends in the Florida Keys: the Florida Manatee.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/mammals/manatee/
Unfortunately, late on a Saturday afternoon in January (1/9/21), DPMMR Stranding Coordinator, Steve McCulloch received a request from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to be on the lookout for a severely injured manatee near Grouper Creek in Key Largo.
On scene witnesses immediately called FWC’s Wildlife Hotline (1-888-404-FWCC) to report a fast-moving boat had struck a manatee, and possibly a mother calf pair. Sadly, the boat operator failed to remain on scene and immediately fled the area.
Despite the horrific circumstances, witnesses remained calm and were able to provide video, images and location to FWC, thereby expediting a response. On scene boaters were helpless and observed one of the critically injured manatees struggling to stay afloat in the mangrove roots.
As the sunset, DPMMR responders made an extensive search of the area, which included Tarpon Basin, Dusenbury and Grouper Creeks. It was not until Monday that DPMMR's Assistant Stranding Coordinator Kyle Lane was finally able to locate a deceased manatee.
She was adult female, with sever blunt trauma. Kyle secured the carcass for FWC recovery and resumed his search. The following day, Kyle located a second deceased manatee on the NW side of Grouper Creek.
Assisted by DPMMR veterinary interns Kate Alexy & Jordyn Zoul, FWC Rescue Lead Amber Howell and her staff made the long drive down from their Tequesta Lab to conduct a field necropsy. In this process, State researchers document the cause of death and life history of each animal, and training is provided to future wildlife veterinarians.
Unfortunately, it was too late for these two manatees, but many others of their kind inhabit the same waters and depend on boat drivers to remain vigilant while out on the water and others to raise awareness of how to protect the Florida Manatee.
Last year was a deadly one for Florida's docile and majestic sea cows, and boaters are partly to blame. Preliminary figures from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) show that 619 manatees died between January 1 and Christmas Day. That's an increase of (27) manatee from the 2019 total of 592 manatee deaths.
Remember, we share the water with these vulnerable species.
It is important for boaters in the Florida Keys to take an on-line safe boating course to help protect our world class waters. Boater courses area available at https://myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/courses/
Other (free) online courses and certificates are available to educate boaters about how to protect themselves, their vessels and the unique Florida Keys marine environment. They offer strategies for responsible boating and stewardship, highlighting relevant rules and regulations.
Everglades National Park –Boater Education Course
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary - Boater Education Course
2021 might have started off a bad year for manatees, but it doesn't have to be a bad year for manatees.
To report any marine animal in distress please notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC