By Brittany Muller - Reporter
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After an intense rescue effort on Wednesday, Jacksonville zoo experts says it’s not unusual to see manatees stranded, especially during mating season.
The distressed animal was rescued Wednesday afternoon after it was found stranded in mud in St. Augustine.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is always ready to help rescue an animal in distress.
“We see this every year. Females will get up in shallow areas trying to get away from the males and then the tide goes out,” said Craig Miller, curator of animals at the Jacksonville zoo.
A team of 10 rescued the 1,000-pound female manatee from the shallow mud in the Matanzas River.
“More often than not, we see the whole breeding heard stranded like that,” Miller said.
While it’s unknown exactly why the manatee beached herself, Miller says it’s not unusual, especially during mating season.
The manatee rescued Wednesday was microchipped, very similar to what pet owners do to their dogs and cats. In order to find out where or how it’s doing, researchers have to be next to the animal and scan it. That's typically done if the animal has to be rescued again or if it’s found dead.
Miller told News4Jax that manatees seemed to have evolved to handle waiting on the next tide to come in, which could be six or eight hours.
The Jacksonville zoo says it’s the outcome that they hope for when a manatee is rescued and put back out to sea, but that’s not always the case.
Some manatees have to be rehabilitated at the facility at the zoo because of cold stress, boat strikes or if they're orphans.
“We have our Manatee Critical Care Center and we’re ready to receive animals,” Miller said.
Currently, there are two young manatees at the zoo, both of which are orphaned.
“We keep them here until they’re old enough to be released, big enough, heavy enough. There are certain length and weight requirements,” Miller said.
The Jacksonville zoo says if you see a manatee in the wild:
- You should not feed it or hose it off with water, as you don’t want to change the manatee’s behavior.
- If you’re a boater, follow the speed zones.
- If you see a manatee stranded in the water or in distress, you should call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately at 888-404-FWCC (3922).