PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — A lone newborn manatee at Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor was recently rescued by FWC wildlife experts after Hurricane Idalia brought strong storm surge to the area.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the area around the park was “significantly impacted” by storm surge and may have been the reason why the calf was separated from its mother. However, experts said they were not entirely sure if that was the case.
High water levels from storm surges allow animals to travel inland or pass barriers to closed water systems, potentially trapping them when the water recedes to normal levels.
In hopes of saving the manatee, rescue staff teamed up with Clearwater Marine Aquarium and staff from Wall Springs Park to capture the calf and bring it to ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
“Young manatees rely on their mother for nutrition and knowledge, typically spending the first two years of their life with their mother learning valuable information on feeding areas, travel routes, and where to take warm water refuge in the winter,” the FWC said.
Residents who live in areas that were heavily impacted by storm surge are asked to keep an eye out for manatees that may need assistance. Reports of any sick, injured, orphaned, or entrapped manatees can be made to the Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-3922.
The FWC said crews are already aware of entrapment cases in Fort Myers, Largo, Cape Coral, and St. Pete.
“Our staff is planning to respond to rescue and relocate these animals as soon as possible,” the commission added.