Injured manatee rescued from Indian River Lagoon

By Justin Warmoth - Anchor

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - It was a team effort Wednesday between Florida Fish and Wildlife and SeaWorld to coral an 8-foot, 800-pound critically injured manatee.

The manatee was found floating in the Indian River Lagoon about a week ago after apparently getting hit by a boat.

"We had to get in the water and lift the cork line up a little bit so the manatee didn't float over the top of the net," said SeaWorld curator Randy Reynolds. "Usually that's not a problem we encounter when we capture manatees because they would normally dive."

Wildlife officials say they've been keeping an eye on the manatee ever since it was spotted last Wednesday. After a couple failed attempts to trap the sea cow, SeaWorld was called to bring it to shore. 

"This animal is highly mobile. She is hanging out in deeper water. We absolutely have to have the right type of equipment to catch her safely," said Ann Spellman, a biologist with Florida Fish and Wildlife.

SeaWorld dropped their boat in Wednesday afternoon at the Port St. John boat ramp and headed toward the injured manatee, who was a floating a couple hundred yards from shore.  

Within a couple of minutes they were able to trap it with a net. From there, they found out it has air trapped in its body, likely from a broken rib, and was injured so badly it couldn't submerge.

"It was floating like a buoy. It couldn't dive very well. Fortunately for us, she was easier to catch that way," said Reynolds. "It was easier to get a net around it because it couldn't dive, but it's a serious uphill battle."

The manatee is being taken to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for rehabilitation and once its fully recovered it'll be returned back to the Indian River Lagoon.

SeaWorld says this is the sixth manatee they've rescued this year.

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