SeaWorld Brings In A Chilled Stranded Calf

A manatee zone marker, complete with brown pelican, at Kelly Park, Indian River Lagoon, near Cocoa, FL (c) SML

I was probably a manatee in a past life. How do I know?  I won’t SCUBA dive into anything other than warm sauna-like conditions and I eat a lot of salads.  Ok, perhaps this isn’t the most convincing of arguments, but these marine mammals are my favorite in the world, as regular WaterNotes readers well know.

Cold water and manatees doesn’t mix. Each year when water temperatures dip below 68F or so they start to migrate towards warm water sources.  Unfortunately, our unseasonable cold snap over the past week in Florida sent water temperatures on an absolute plunge – Indian River Lagoon readings are in the 50 degree range at the surface.

This poses a problem for a slew of wildlife, and especially manatees, who develop pneumonia-like conditions as well as open sores due to cold stress.  Its one of the most common causes of death for manatees.

So what’s a cold stranded calf to do? Well, be incredibly lucky is certainly one strategy.  SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue team responded to a stranding report for a juvenile manatee near Sebastian Inlet (that’s towards the southern reach of Brevard County and well within the Indian River Lagoon system) and decided to bring the little female in.  The local station, WESH, has a great video shoot that shows her off and she looks to be in great shape so far.  Many cold stressed manatees develop such serious sores that they are a pitiful sight to see.  Let’s hope this little calf does well enough to be turned out with other recent rescues in the coming months as we head for warmer water temperatures closer to spring.

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