Florida Fish and Wildlife team rescues manatee in Fort Lauderdale

Biologists remove life vest from manatee in distress

By Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter, Amy Viteri - Investigative Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission team helped a juvenile manatee in distress on Wednesday afternoon. There was a life vest tangled on the back of the marine mammal. 

At first glance, police officers thought the life vest was a tracking device. But Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue personnel dived in and noticed the manatee needed help. They followed the manatee until the FWC team arrived.

Amber Howell, an FWC marine biologist who helped the manatee, said it likely had just separated from mom this winter. Calfs stay close to their mother for one to two years to learn travel routes. 

"We wanted to make sure it was big enough and healthy enough to be on its own," Howell said. 

With the help of a net, a boat and some muscle, the FWC's Manatee Rescue team was able to pull the manatee to solid ground. At the side of a water-front mansion in Sunrise Key, biologists removed the life vest and cleaned up the manatee.

It took Howell, two other women and six men to carry the manatee on a tarp to a ramp. When they set him free about 5 p.m., Howell clapped and others cheered. The FWC team also placed a tiny tracker to keep up with the manatee. 

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