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Rehabilitated manatee released at Shepard Park in Stuart

Posted at 5:36 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 17:36:36-04

STUART, Fla. — A lot has been made this year about the fate of Florida's manatees. Nearly 1,000 have died this year, a record number.

But it was a special delivery Wednesday, and the last chapter of a six-month story.

"Sheep" returned to Shepard Park in Stuart. It was here where this female manatee was first discovered back in May.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officers were first to the scene, and they reached out to FAU's Harbor Branch for help.

"This animal had a boat injury," said Steve Burton with FAU's Harbor Branch. "We helped pull a net onto the animal and pulled it up onto the boat."

Experts at Miami Seaquarium nursed Sheep back to health.

"One of the biggest things is getting them eating again. When they’re in tough shape, she was also thin at the time of her rescue. It took us a little while to get her eating," said Julie Heyde at Miami Seaquarium.

Socializing in a pool with other manatees helped spur Sheep’s appetite. She put on more than 200 pounds.

November is Manatee Awareness Month and with snowbird season right around the corner, it won’t be long before our waterways are filled with even more boaters.

"Boaters when you’re on the water, keep an eye out, obey all posted speed zones and wear polarized sunglasses, that helps you see into the water," said Tom Reinert, the FWC regional director.

Miami Seaquarium rehabs between 20 and 30 manatees a year, but that number has been rising.

"We’re worried about what’s to come for the species and thankfully there’s a lot of research going on and a lot of people that want to help manatees," Heyde said.

Sheep was measured, marked for her healed wounds, and chipped. Then it was back to the water.

"They’re the gentle giants and they have really captured a place in Floridians' hearts," Reinert said.

If you spot a manatee, sea turtle, dolphin, or whale in distress, you can reach out to FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC.