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Manatee and calf returning to sea after being struck by boat near Hobe Sound

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Wildlife officials release a manatee and her calf back into the ocean near Hobe Sound. (WPEC).

Wildlife officials released a manatee and her calf back into the ocean near Hobe Sound on Tuesday.

Shortly before noon, a crowd gathered at Jimmy Graham boat ramp.

Among the group was Eric Spoelstra who spotted Ribbon, the female adult manatee, back in January in the waters off the Martin County coast near Loblolly Marina.

"She had this giant hump on her back and was acting really erratic," he told CBS12 News. "Then I saw the scars and I said 'boy oh boy that's not good.' So I picked up the phone and called the manatee hotline."

Officials say the mother manatee was swimming sideways and her injuries caused her "to be excessively buoyant."

"Ribbon had some pretty severe boat struck injuries," said Julie Heyde, the Animal Care Supervisor at Miami Seaquarium. "Thankfully Florida Fish and Wildlife reacted really quickly and were able to not only rescue her, but she had a dependent calf at the time."

The Miami Seaquarium staff working with Ribbon around the clock for 10 months.

Their efforts lead to Tuesday when mama and baby were cleared to return to their native waters near Hobe Sound, and nearby a familiar face to send them off.

"We were so happy when they texted me last week and said we are ready to release them," Spoelstra said.


The pair were measured and photographer for the manatee database, which Ribbon has been in since 1989. Officials say her file will be updated.

"It's one of our ways to study the animals and determine their success," FWC Research Associate Amber Howell told CSB12 News.

Almost an hour after their arrival, the manatees were carried back into the sea.

"Lacey has so much to learn from her mom, especially coming up in the winter months," said Heyde.

It's a moment that will stick with Spoelstra, Ribbon and Lacey's hero.

"It's kind of like I feel like a father!" Spoelstra laughed. "It was a special moment, it really was."

When rescued the adult female manatee measured 11 1/2 feet long and weighed approximately 1,770 pounds, while the calf was almost 5 1/2 ft long and approximately 100 pounds.

FWC encourages the public to report sightings of any sick, injured, dead, or tagged manatees by calling the FWC's Wildlife Alert number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).

Due to manatee migration during the colder months, FWC changed speed zones. Please check their website before you head out on the water.



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