Crews rescue large female manatee suffering boat injury

An injured manatee was so large it took a bulldozer to move her to safety Friday in Clearwater.

Kayakers spotted the female manatee in trouble and called for help. She is with veterinarians at ZooTampa on the long path to get her healthy again.

The manatee is missing a flipper, has several gashes on her back, and possibly an infection. Marine veterinarians said the manatee appears to have been hit by a boat, but didn't fully recover.

They also said the missing flipper is likely due to a previous entanglement.

“She was alone when she was first reported, but the males had picked up on where she was and were trying to mate with her,” said Andy Garrett, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission State Manatee Rescue Coordinator. “She had five or six adult males climbing on her trying to mate with her.”

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It is manatee mating season, and Garrett said that could have made the manatee’s situation worse.

“This animal actually had some distress and potentially those males could have exhausted her to the point of dying,” said Garrett.

FWC teamed up with Clearwater Marine Aquarium to catch the manatee, using a specialized boat and nets to get her out of Stevenson Creek.

“She ended up being a pretty big manatee. She was 2,000 pounds, a big female, so we ended up having the city of Clearwater bring heavy equipment in to move her into our truck,” said Garrett.

The 11.4-foot long manatee was transferred to ZooTampa where veterinarians are treating her.

“[Doctors are] giving her antibiotics, trying to get rid of that infection, trying to get her to eat. If all of that stuff goes well and it progresses, the goal is to get her back out as soon as possible,” said Garrett.

As the mating season becomes more active, wildlife workers said it’s important to report any thrashing or splashing, so they can check up on the slow-moving mammals and make sure they are not hurt.

“If you see a manatee that doesn’t move away, it just doesn’t seem right, that’s often the description that we get is that it just doesn’t seem like a normal manatee, to call our 800 number,” said Garrett.

FWC’s number for reporting incidents is 888-404-3922.

ZooTampa said it will have doctors with the manatee overnight to closely watch over the manatee.

FWC said it could take weeks or months before the manatee is healthy and ready to be returned to the water.