NAPLES — Rescuers pulled a manatee with boat strike injuries from a back bay near Goodland on Tuesday.
"It was a fight," said volunteer rescuer Ron Hagerman, who runs Capt. Ron's Awesome Everglades Tours, which found the the injured manatee Tuesday. "It was unbelievable actually."
It took a team of eight people to net the 8 1/2-foot female and pull it into a rescue boat in Shell Key Bay, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"It's not as easy as it sounds," said Tom Reinert, the manatee rescue team supervisor for the Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The manatee was leaning to one side and riding high in the water, an indication that a punctured lung had allowed air into its body cavity, rescuers said.
Reinert said the manatee first was reported Sunday, but a rescue team couldn't be mobilized, he said. The manatee was moving around, he said. By the time the manatee was spotted again Monday, it was too late in the day to mount a rescue.
So Tuesday, Reinert started driving from his office in Tequesta toward Goodland with the manatee rescue boat in tow in anticipation of another sighting of the injured manatee.
A tour guide tracked the manatee down, and Reinert met up with the rest of the rescue crew from the Conservation Commission, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and citizen volunteers.
The crew's first two attempts to net the manatee failed but the third time was a charm. About 4 p.m., the manatee was hauled into the rescue boat, which has its engine in the middle of the boat rather than in the stern so it's not in the way of the rescue.
Once the manatee was ashore, biologists drove the manatee in the back of a box truck to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for rehabilitation. they didn't arrive until after dark, zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said.
Nelson said the manatee was being kept in a medical pool at the zoo, but no further details were available about its condition Wednesday.
Cuts on the manatee's side from the boat strike had started to heal by the time it was rescued, Reinert said, leading him to guess that the manatee had been injured in the past two weeks.
The manatee was not lactating, an indication that she did not have a calf that also might have needed rescue, Reinert said.
To report a dead or distressed manatee call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).