Rescuers working late into Monday night freed 19 manatees that were stuck in a storm drain in central Florida.
Capt. Jay Dragon of the Satellite Beach Fire Department said early Tuesday that the 19 manatees were all alive and were returned to the Indian River Lagoon System.
A manatee-rescue team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with police and firefighters, were helping the marine mammals Monday evening. Rescuers brought heavy earth-moving equipment to the Satellite Beach neighborhood, located on a barrier island along the Atlantic Ocean.
Some rescuers speculated that with the cold weather, manatees are moving into the canals for warmer water.
Authorities initially said there were as many as 15 manatees stuck in the drain.
In Volusia County, Fla., a team of volunteers participate in the Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team (VCMMST), and help manatees and dolphins that strand themselves. state’s When responding to manatee strandings, the Stranding Team operates under the direction of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus), or sea cow, is a large plant-eating aquatic mammal commonly found in shallow coastal waters, rivers, canals, and springs of Florida. They range in color from gray to brown, and are seal-shaped in appearance, with flat, rounded tails. Adult manatees average 9.8 feet in length and weigh over 1,000 pounds.
The primary threat from humans in Palm Beach County, Fla., according to the county website, is collision with watercraft which accounts for 35% of manatee strandings. Other causes of human-related manatee mortalities include being crushed and/or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures; ingestion of fish hooks, litter and monofilament line, entanglement in crab trap lines; and vandalism. Loss of habitat is also a serious threat facing manatees. High mortality, primarily associated with human activity, as well as a low reproductive rate and loss of habitat continue to keep the number of manatees low and threaten the future of the species.