Featured Image Credit: Rick Neale/ Florida Today
By Laura O’Brien
Hurricane Irma devastated several Caribbean islands before making its way to Florida. The massive hurricane followed an extremely unusual track, sweeping all the way up the peninsula and affecting the entire state. Humans and infrastructure were not the only things to suffer in Irma’s path; marine life was heavily impacted by the storm as well.
Hurricanes cause storm surges and other flooding, which quickly expand the area that marine life can inhabit. Water covers the areas that surround bodies of water, so sea creatures become displaced over areas that are usually dry land. This record-breaking storm caused an extreme storm surge and disastrous flooding.
In Melbourne, manatees became stranded in a pond as a result of flooding. Crane Creek flooded during the storm, and the manatees were able to swim in the pond; but when the water abated, the manatees became trapped. Rene Alvarez owns a home on the creek, and he told reporters that he saw the manatees swimming back and forth between where the creek and the pond usually lie. When the water level sank and the manatees were no longer able to travel back to the creek, Alvarez called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Friday was the first day after the storm that conditions permitted workers to go help.
At that point, the FWC, Brevard Zoo, and SeaWorld worked together to save the six trapped manatees. Although there was plenty of food for the manatees to eat in the pond, they couldn’t stay because they will need to travel to warmer waters for the winter. The manatees were certainly not in distress when workers arrived, and each received a health assessment before being released into the creek.
Now, thanks to helpful neighbors and conservation organizations, the manatees are free to do whatever their manatee hearts desire.
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