CORTEZ – When Gale Tedhams was visiting her mother at a Cortez Road condo last May, she immediately recognized the signs of a manatee calf in distress.
“There was a mother and baby in the canal behind the (Mount Vernon) condo,” she said. “You could see boat strike injuries and the baby couldn’t dive to nurse.”
Tedhams, who volunteers at the Bradenton Beach-based Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Inc., called Mote Marine and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to see if someone could help.
“They told me they knew about them and have been trying to get them for two weeks, but by the time they got to them they were already gone,” Tedham said. “About 30 people (from FWC) came out in a boat and stretched a net around them and were able to take mom and the baby. The mom was huge.”
The calf had an infection and the mother and calf were kept together and brought to SeaWorld Orlando for treatment. SeaWorld has a rehabilitation center for treating wildlife that is ill, injured or orphaned, including manatees, sea turtles, birds and other marine animals.
On Aug. 3, the mother and calf were released back into the water at the Palma Sola Causeway Boat Ramp.
“They brought them down (from Orlando) in a huge box truck,” Tedhams said. “They were laying in the back. Once they were put in the water, they just swam right off together.”
In a recent study, FWC researchers found that one out of every four adult manatee carcasses analyzed showed evidence of 10 or more watercraft strikes.
“With only 4% of adult manatees devoid of watercraft-related scars, it appears exceedingly rare for an adult manatee to not be struck multiple times in its life,” according to the FWC website.
Manatees and the law
Manatees are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.
It is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy or molest manatees. According to the FWC, “Examples of illegal activities include: Giving food or water to manatees, or using food or water to attract manatees, separating a mother and calf, disturbing manatee mating herds, or pursuing or chasing manatees either while swimming or with a vessel.”
Call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC on cell phones, or text Tip@MyFWC.com to report manatee deaths, injuries, harassment, accidents, or orphaned or distressed manatees.