Manatee Rescued From Cold, Taken to Zoo

FWC biologists cover a manatee with a thermal blanket to protect it from the cold after it is rescued Dec. 15.

FWC biologists cover a manatee with a thermal blanket to protect it from the cold after it is rescued Dec. 15.

First published by The Ledger, December 17, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG -- A juvenile manatee rescued from the chilly waters of Bayboro Harbor is recuperating at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, officials said.

Biologists found the juvenile manatee Wednesday just outside the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg after getting a tip from a concerned resident, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The manatee was thin and showed signs of cold stress, including lesions along its body.

The condition can be fatal and happens when manatees are exposed to water below 68 degrees, according to the wildlife commission.

The manatee was placed in a warm "medical pool" when he arrived at Lowry Park, zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said, and he went right to sleep.

He was lethargic Thursday and had not begun eating, typical for manatees in this situation, she said.

"We're just trying to let him settle in and we'll know more about him in a couple days," Nelson said.

"We try to be more hands-off initially, since it's already stressful enough being captured and riding in a truck."

This has been a record year for manatee deaths, stemming from a brutal cold spell in January.

As of early December, 244 of the 699 manatees deaths occurred during last winter's bitter cold snap.

Manatees are particularly sensitive to cold. When the temperature drops below 68 degrees, they seek refuge in the warmer water flowing from springs and power plant outfalls.

Normally, it's a slow death.
Their skin develops lesions, their metabolism slows and they stop eating. Generally they succumb to secondary infections.

The water temperature during Wednesday's rescue was 58 degrees. Officials were particularly concerned because the manatee was not near warmer waters, according to Carli Segelson of the wildlife commission.

She said biologists do not know how it got to Bayboro Harbor.

No manatees have died from the cold so far this season, Segelson said.

While the cold was blamed for the record number of deaths this year, the wildlife commission logged its highest-ever number of manatee rescues at 97.

This includes everything from cold-related rescues to entanglements.

Wednesday's rescue was one of the first cold-related rescues of the season, Segelson said.

To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the wildlife commission's Wildlife Alert Hotline toll-free at 1-888-404-3922. 

Ryan HeningerBayboro Harbor