410 Seagate Dr. , Naples, FL
NAPLES — All it took was a few shovels and a little help from some concerned citizens.
And in the end, a manatee stuck on a sand bar at Clam Pass swam to freedom Monday.
The group of volunteers freed the manatee by digging a channel. They cheered as the manatee found the open water.
“It was a great way to start the day,” Collier County sheriff’s Cpl. Carmine Marceno said about the community’s effort to free the distressed animal.
The 10-foot manatee got stuck on a sand bar as the tide left the pass overnight.
“It was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Denise Boyd said.
Collier deputies, Collier parks rangers and Pelican Bay district staff fervently worked to create a pathway for the manatee to push its way through.
They poured water on it to keep its back moist and kept it shaded.
Thanks to the incoming tide and the people’s help, after about 40 minutes the sea cow made its way off the sandbar and to the open ocean.
Conservation Commission rescuers from Port Charlotte weren’t called to the scene because locally trained people already were on the job, Boyd said.
The manatee didn’t appear to be sick or injured, she said.
It apparently just swam into shallow waters and then got stranded there when the tide went out, she said.
Pedro Piñeiro, with Pelican Bay Services, said he got the call around 6:30 a.m. and was on the scene within an hour. He organized a five-person crew, which helped dig a path through the sand for the manatee.
More than 30 onlookers watched the rescue attempt as the morning went on.
Naples residents James and Shannon Blanke said they’d never seen anything like it since they’ve been running on the beach.
“We come out here pretty regularly,” James Blanke said. “But the water was pretty low.”
Added Frank Kearns, with Pelican Bay Security, of seeing the manatee survive the ordeal: “It was very exciting. It was a very happy feeling.”
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Naples Daily News staff writer Eric Staats contributed to this report.