HomeOutdoorsNewsWATCH: Firefighters Rescue Manatee Trapped in Florida Mud

WATCH: Firefighters Rescue Manatee Trapped in Florida Mud

by Brett Stayton
Manatee Swims Through Sea Grass
Photo by Romana Robbins Photography/Getty Images

Every so often a wild animal gets stuck in the mud and needs help. Instances of a bull elk getting pulled out of the mud with a four-wheeler and a great blue heron getting stuck in a marsh have made recent headlines. Even a hiker in Colorado and a domestic cow in Australia found themselves stuck in the mud recently. Now a manatee in Florida is the latest one to need some assistance getting unstuck from the muck. Fox 13 News has the original story.

The incident occurred on January 6th along the St. Johns River outside of Jacksonville. As the receding tide got lower and lower in north Florida, the muddy riverbanks trapped the manatee. Firefighters Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department responded to the scene along with a crew from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “There was a long trail where the manatee attempted to get into deep water, but it just wasn’t agile enough to save itself,” firefighters said. “Not your everyday rescue, but happy to be able to assist,” they added.

The video of the rescue attempt shows just how arduous of a task rescuing the big animal was. Rescuers had to lay boards across the mud to serve as a walkway before they could even get to the manatee. As can be seen, rescuers had to use a winch to lift the animal into a truck. The manatee is temporarily residing at the Jacksonville Zoo. Correspondingly, the manatee got a veterinary exam and will eventually be released back into the river.

200,000 Pounds Of Lettuce Shipped In To Feed Manatees

It’s already been a challenging winter for manatees in Florida. Food scarcity along Florida’s east coast is a threat to the species in the area. Colder seasonal temperatures and pollution is a tough combination. That Conditions have collectively continued to make it harder for the sea cows to find food this time of year.

Back in mid-December, John Wallace with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans for the second year of a program that provides lettuce for the sea creatures near a warm-water power plant near Cape Canaveral. “Now is the time for things to start ramping back up,” Wallace explained. “If we have a significant event this year, which we are hoping we won’t have, we’ll be ready for that.”

2021 was perhaps the worst winter ever in terms of impact on manatee numbers. The feeding program got its start that same year. A record 1,101 manatees reportedly died that year. Causes of death include starvation, pollution from farm runoff, urban development, and degraded seagrass beds. At the time the feeding program started back up in late 2022, there had already been reports of 765 manatee deaths. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission estimates that roughly 8,000 manatees remain in the wild. Feeding programs like the one in Cape Canaveral could be a key part of sustainably supporting that population into the future.