Wayward manatee finally rescued on Cape Cod

UPDATE (September 27, 2016): During a routine medical exam, Mystic Aquarium staff discovered that the wayward manatee named “Washburn” is pregnant. The 800-pound female, rescued by IFAW before the water temperatures dropped to an uninhabitable 67 degrees Fahrenheit, is between four and five months along. The pregnant manatee will continue to be monitored to assess when she will be stable enough for transport to longer term rehabilitation in Florida before ultimately being released back to coastal waters. 

Manatee Rescue

It’s not every day that you can say this, but we rescued a manatee today. The last confirmed sighting was Sunday in Cotuit Bay and then this morning our team found it in a small inlet in East Falmouth in Massachusetts.

Our network was activated and we immediately loaded our responders into our rescue trucks already prepacked with all the necessary equipment and headed to today’s staging area at Menauhant Yacht Club. Our team split into two boats joining our initial team members who originally spotted it in a third boat. After 20 minutes of monitoring the swimming manatee, we put our rescue plan in place.

We would use a seine net to bring the manatee to shore on Washburn Island. We dropped two people off on the land to hold one end of the net and used our boat to encircle the manatee, pulling it in slowly toward the shore with the help of 15 responders. From there we carried the 1,100 pound marine mammal to our boat and motored over to the staging area. We were almost there, but it took a lot more brawn and a purpose-built marine mammal cart to finally bring the manatee to our rescue trailer lined with soft foam mats.

Our veterinarian and rescue staff monitored its respirations, analyzed its blood and checked its health before we transported it to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut for temporary rehabilitation.

Its vital signs look good, but it was a bit lethargic.

We’re hoping that with additional medical care and after some time in the warm water pools at Mystic, the manatee will bounce back. Once stable and strong enough for transport, we will bring it to more permanent rehabilitation center in Florida where the manatee will have more time to recuperate before ultimately being released back to the wild.

When this manatee was spotted in Chatham in late August, I was surprised. It’s pretty rare for these warm water sea cows to come this far north. We were keeping track of sightings just in case it needed help. As we reached the middle of September and water temperatures continued to drop we realized that this manatee was going to need our help to head south. We are authorized to rescue marine mammals that typically inhabit our waters like dolphins, whales and seals.

For the manatee, we needed to get a special permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to rescue and transport it.

We had been intensifying our search for days now calling on dozens of volunteers and animal groups to assist as well as asking the public to call our hotline with any tips. I feel relieved that we finally were able to rescue this wayward manatee from the cold water and provide it the care that it needs.

I want to thank everyone that helped make this challenging rescue possible including IFAW staff, volunteers, donors, local residents, George Breen, Falmouth Police Department, Falmouth Harbormaster, US Coast Guard, NOAA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mystic Aquarium and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

--KM

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Experts

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Senior Program Advisor
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