ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - Early on November 9th, Randall the manatee was returned to the wild after spending almost a year in rehabilitation with SeaWorld Orlando.
Randall was found stranded in Camp Branch Creek in the Rodman Reservoir complex in Putnam County.
“Randall’s case is not unique. Every year, manatees become entrapped and require assistance. As in this instance, the public can help by reporting trapped manatees and can help prevent entrapments from occurring in the first place,” said Jim Valade, Manatee Recovery Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
“FWC was alerted to Randall’s situation by Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff who reported seeing him in an area that was not normally accessible to manatees,” he said. “After Randall’s rescue, changes were made to prevent manatees from getting into that area again. This is an issue where we are trying to be more proactive and the public can play an important role in helping us help manatees.”
According to the FWC, over the last 10 years:
- 115 manatees have been rescued after being trapped in or behind culverts, ditches, water control structures, and in navigation lock recesses.
- 22 manatees have died after becoming trapped in such place.
- Trapped manatees are usually between 7 and 10 feet long and sometimes have cow-calf pairs.
There are a lot of reasons why manatees get trapped, according to Valade. “Entrapments generally happen throughout the year, although extremely high seasonal tides can be one cause. Manatees may swim into an area during a high tide, then when the tide goes out, they’re stranded.”
In some cases too, manatees may just be seeking shelter in warm water areas or looking for fresh water. In doing this, they sometimes swim into a culvert and hit a dead end.
“But entrapments like Randall’s can be prevented,” Valade said.
Companies and municipalities that install new pipes, culverts, and other structures that may be accessible and cause issues for manatees are being asked by permitting agencies to include manatee protection devices in their designs to prevent manatee access.
“The FWC, the USFWS and other agencies work with permit applicants to ensure that protection devices are installed on these structures where needed,” Valade said. Owners of existing structures in need of protection devices can obtain information HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Sometimes officials do not even realize that there's a problem until an animal gets stuck. This was the case in 2015 when 20 manatees were caught behind a storm water drain in Satellite Beach in Brevard County. All of the animals were rescued and released unharmed, but the rescues were dangerous and required considerable staff, time, and resources. A grate that was properly maintained and installed could have prevented this incident.
The public also plays a role in helping to report trapped, sick, stranded, and injured animals. If you see an injured marine animal, you can help by calling the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
Information via SeaWorld Orlando