As Gary Chancey cleared the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area on last Tuesday, he found two gray animals trapped in a foot-and-a-half-deep body of water.
So, the technician with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission called for help.
“I got the call originally that there were two dolphins that were trapped inland and out of habitat,” said Mike Walsh, an associate professor for UF’s Aquatic Animal Health Program.
By 10 a.m., Walsh, a team of UF students and members from other organizations drove northwest to the area outside Perry, Florida, he said. There they found a mother manatee and her five- to seven-month-old calf.
It’s likely that a storm surge from Hurricane Hermine washed them there, where they were trapped for 26 days, he said.
Andy Garrett, Florida’s manatee rescue coordinator, said they lifted them out using an excavator, a piece of heavy machinery with a arm on it.
After the procedure, UF volunteers and veterinarians took blood samples and body-weight measurements, said Karen Parker, an FWC public information coordinator. The mother was about 300 pounds underweight, but she and her baby were fine.
Parker said he thinks the mother was able to nurse her baby while trapped.
Both manatees were released near St. Petersburg, Florida, Walsh said.
“I think what’s always fascinating when you go out to one of these things is that you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.