Attempts to rescue manatee stuck in tire foiled by pollution, other factors

Manatee with tire around its body spotted at Blue Spring State Park

Crews are trying to rescue a manatee with a tire stuck around its belly.

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Crews in Volusia County faced complicated conditions Tuesday while working to capture a manatee stuck in a tire at Blue Spring State Park, according to wildlife officials.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said Tuesday morning that members of their team, as well as SeaWorld rescue crews and members of the Save the Manatee Club in Volusia County, were working to pull off the rescue at Blue Spring State Park.

The tire poses a risk to the manatee because “the animal is continuing to grow and the tire is not,” park ranger Michael Watkins said.

[MANATEES IN FLORIDA: Where to see wild manatees in Florida]

News 6 sister station WJXT, in Jacksonville, reported on a manatee in October that appeared to have a bicycle tire stuck around its belly while swimming in Fernandina Beach. After that spotting, crews were unable to locate the sea cow but vowed to continue searching for it and attempt to free it as soon as possible.

A manatee is spotted Fernandina Beach with what appears to be a bicycle tire around its belly. (Image: WJXT)

Crews were hoping to capture the manatee Tuesday, free it and take it to SeaWorld for treatment, according to wildlife officials. However, factors outside their control didn’t allow for easy rescue conditions.

Watkins said as rescuers were attempting to capture the at-risk manatee other manatees were getting into the net and the one with the tire got away.

Rescuers also had problems due to pollution in the spring.

“It’s a concern for us and it’s unfortunate that there’s a lot of debris in the water," Watkins said. "We should throw our trash in trash bins or recycle bins or where they belong. Not in the environment.”

The search was called off around 2 p.m., until further notice, after crews failed to capture the manatee, according to a park ranger.

“The SeaWorld Rescue team were sent out this morning to assist FWC with this rescue – the team was not successful in getting this manatee, but we will continue our efforts when requested again by FWC,” a SeaWorld Orlando spokesperson said.

Visitors to the spring, known for its manatees, were also concerned for the sea cow.

“It’s kind of tragic, you know," park-goer April Bilicki said. "It’s good that my kids get to see that there are good people out there that can help animals and maybe one day they’ll do the same.”