Brad Rose and Ted Due of DRC's Manatee Rescue Team with the injured manatee
DRC's Medical Director Pat Clough (r-front in gray cap) rinses Blitzen's wounds and monitors his respiration while other team members help steady the manatee. (Also pictured, from left are Brad Rose, Chris Haydu, Ryan Bliss, Mandy Rodriguez and Bette Zirkelbach.)
Dolphin Research Center's Manatee Rescue Team and FWCC manatee personnel rescued a badly injured manatee on Monday, December 9th from the waters near mile marker 88.5 (Bayside) in Islamorada.
The 11-foot long, male manatee was seriously injured with lacerations to his head and body by a boat propeller. The worst gash, which spread from his eye to the middle of his forehead, is so deep that it cut through the cranium and into the sinuses. After his rescue, the manatee was transported to Miami Seaquarium for treatment.
Now named Blitzen, the manatee has shown himself to be a determined survivor. He was first spotted on Thursday, December 4th in the marina at Sunshine Key, mile marker 39 in the Lower Keys. The DRC team, FWCC, and staff from Miami Seaquarium attempted to rescue him several times on that day, but he evaded capture. We alerted the media and they spread the word to residents, asking them to please keep an eye out for the manatee and report to officials if they spotted him.
Over the next few days, sightings were reported in Marathon and then, on Sunday night, in Islamorada -- upwards of 50 miles away from where he was first spotted the previous week! DRC team members were on the scene in a boat at first light on Monday, cruising the area and hoping to locate him.
Finally, around 11 a.m., an Islamorada resident called DRC and said that the manatee was in the canal outside her home. The entire team mobilized, met FWCC staff at the site, and prepared for the rescue attempt. We launched the rescue boat from Futura Yacht Club, and set the net at the mouth of the canal. With some gentle urging from other personnel in a kayak and on the tracking boat, Blitzen swam toward the end of the canal, heading for open water.
The team swiftly encircled him with the net and, with a coordinated team effort and lots of muscle power, successfully brought him on board the rescue boat. Thankfully, they only had to make a short trip to the boat ramp where, with help from Yacht Club residents and some Coast Guard personnel, the animal was rolled into a stretcher and carried him on shore.
Once on land, resting on soft foam pads, Blitzen was examined by DRC's Medical Director Pat Clough. She monitored his respiration and rinsed his wounds. Soon after, the team loaded him into a truck for transport to Miami Seaquarium.
Miami Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Maya Rodriguez further examined him and began treatment. He will undergo X-rays, receive antibiotics, and be constantly observed in hopes that he will fully recover from his injuries. Seaquarium staff will provide excellent care to Blitzen and do their absolute best to help him get better.
Blitzen's injuries are a strong reminder of the danger faced by manatees when they come too close to boats. They also serve as a painful lesson to people on why they should not offer food or water from a hose to these gentle giants. Doing so encourages them to come closer to docks and busy marinas and greatly increases the chance that they will be hit by boats. Providing food and water is similar to placing your dog's food and water bowls in the middle of a busy street! It is also illegal to feed manatees in the wild.
Many thanks to all the residents who looked out for Blitzen, as well as those who helped on the day of the rescue. Let's all keep our flippers crossed that he responds to treatment and recovers!