Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission releases manatee back into wild

Mammal had lung injuries from boat accident

VERO BEACH, Fla. - It was found badly injured. Now, a Florida manatee has been released back into the wild in Indian River County after months of rehabilitation. The manatee was run over by a boat; however, boating accidents are only one of several concerns the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has about our manatee population.

"One, two, three," count biologists and volunteers as they hoist their passenger out of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's truck and back into the water. After five months at the Miami Seaquarium, "Buoy" is going back where he belongs.

"It's very satisfying," explained John Cassady, a manatee biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. "This is really what the job's all about."

Cassady was one of several people helping Buoy back into the water at Round Island Park. The 780 lb., 8 and a half foot Florida manatee is now healthy after he was seriously injured by a boat.

"He had some impact wounds from a watercraft collision that left him with some internal injuries that affected his lungs," Cassady explained. "Fortunately, we were able to get him down to the Seaquarium in time and they did a great job rehabilitating him and he recovered pretty quickly."

Vacationing Denver, Colorado resident, Jeff Scott, rolled up his sleeves on Monday to help get the manatee back home.

"It was amazing how quiet he was on the mat there," said Scott. "We lifted him in and off he swam."

Buoy is now back in the water at a time when more manatees are returning to our area for the winter. Unfortunately, as many manatees make their way to South Florida, there's a high likelihood that they will be injured; however, boating injuries aren't the only threat to these mammals.

"In Brevard County in the past week, we've been seeing a little higher than usual number of calves dying," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission marine biologist Ann Spellman, "A couple from cold stress and one from a watercraft strike, and a couple more that we have to pick up before we can say what they died from."

As biologists work to save these mammals, people like Scott will be doing their part too.

"If I'm renting a boat, I'm going to keep an eye out for them, for sure," he said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials said if boaters take precautions to watch for manatees, stay in marked channels and follow posted speeds, it will do a lot to make sure manatees like Buoy will be in South Florida for a long time.

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