NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – Bystanders and wildlife officials worked Friday morning to rescue a beached female manatee in the inlet at New Smyrna Beach, according to the Volusia County Beach Safety Patrol.
The Marine Mammal Stranding team was at the scene and worked to save the sea cow, which was believed to be 9 to 10 feet in length, crews said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife and SeaWorld officials arrived around 9 a.m. to make sure the manatee was healthy and stress that no one try to touch the animal.
FWC biologist Allison Perna said the sea cow likely beached herself because it's manatee mating season and she was tired.
"A mating herd can include up to 20 males in pursuit of one focal female," Perna said. "In that case, sometimes a female obviously will get tired of that and their best route out is to beach themselves and hope the males don't follow."
Wildlife officials and several beach goers, including Howard Tarpey, helped push the manatee back out into the water.
Tarpey was taking his morning walk when he came open the manatee on the sand.
"She opened her eyes and took a breath and we're like 'OK, this is good,'" Tarpey said, adding that he and others then brought buckets of water to help keep her skin moist.
"We dug a little moat around her," Tarpey said before wildlife biologists arrived. "The tide was receding at this point so getting her into the water was not going to happen."
Thankfully, after awhile the manatee was set free.
"It was magic," Tarpey said of working together to get the sea cow back in the water. "It was worth all the muscle strain getting her out there because she was heavy. It was really great."