HomeOutdoorsNewsManatee Trapped in Fishing Lure Rescued by Florida Wildlife Officials

Manatee Trapped in Fishing Lure Rescued by Florida Wildlife Officials

by Caitlin Berard
Manatee Swimming in Crystal River, Florida
(Photo by Brent Durand via Getty Images)

While exploring Florida’s Crystal River, a group of outdoorsmen noticed a strange sight: a manatee with its flipper pinned to its face. Looking closer, they realized the marine mammal was tangled in a fishing lure and contacted Florida Fish and Wildlife officials for help.

“Our staff received a call Feb. 20 reporting a small, thin manatee in the Three Sisters Springs had a large fishing lure hooked to its face,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Officials told Miami Herald. “It had treble hooks, and one end was in the lip and one had gone through the flipper.”

Upon their arrival, Florida wildlife officials realized that the situation was dire, the manatee suffering every time it tried to use its flipper to swim. The fishing line rendered its flipper wholly unusable. As a result, the animal was forced to walk along the bottom of the river rather than swim, using its free flipper as a foot to propel itself along.

Because the manatee was in pain and its mobility hindered, officials staged the rescue the same day. Using a net, they first captured the 2-year-old female. One end of the fishing lure broke free in the struggle. They then removed the other end, freeing her completely.

Wildlife officials then transported the 6-foot manatee to Florida’s ZooTampa at Lowry Park for treatment. According to reports, she’s responding well to antibiotics and didn’t suffer any permanent damage from the fishing lure. The young manatee is well on her way to a full recovery. Once her health is restored, officials will release her back into the wild.

Entanglement is a Common Problem for Florida’s Manatees

No one witnessed the exact moment the manatee became entangled in the fishing lure. Officials suspect, however, that she got tangled while feeding in the grass or swimming past someone reeling in a fish.

Sadly, this is a common problem for Florida’s manatee population, according to experts. As of March 1, Florida wildlife officials have rescued over 40 manatees in 2023. These include three entangled in fishing and crabbing debris, as well as four struck by watercraft.

Manatees inhabit the coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea, the Amazon basin, West Africa, and the Gulf of Mexico. The species native to Florida, the West Indian manatee, is endangered and listed as a threatened species.

Per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a minimum of 7,500 animals survive in the state’s waterways. West Indian manatees typically stretch between 9 and 13 feet, weighing as much as 3,500 pounds. Crystal River, the home of the recently injured manatee, is a refuge for the species.

“Crystal River is home to the only national wildlife refuge in the United States specifically created to protect habitats for Florida’s beloved official marine mammal, the Florida manatee,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife reported.