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Manatee calf rescued off Key Largo

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials and Dolphin Research Center staff gather with a manatee calf they rescued off Key Largo because it was struck by a boat’s propeller.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials and Dolphin Research Center staff gather with a manatee calf they rescued off Key Largo because it was struck by a boat’s propeller.

State wildlife officials and Keys marine mammal rescue staff removed a manatee calf from Key Largo waters Thursday to be treated in Miami for injuries inflicted by a boat’s propeller.

Mary Stella, director of media and marketing for the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, said the manatee is about a year and a half years old and 7 feet long. DRC staff and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers corralled the mammal in the shallows of Florida Bay off Calusa Camp Ground near mile marker 101.5 around 1 p.m.

The propeller cuts were visible on the manatee’s body and tail paddle, Stella said.

Residents in the area first spotted the animal on Monday, but the FWC wanted to determine if the injuries were serious enough to require medical treatment, and if the manatee was old enough to be away from its mother.

By Thursday, both issues were determined affirmative. Stella said photos of the wounds showed they were deep and there was swelling, which could mean the animal suffered internal injuries.

The calf was transported to Miami Seaquarium for treatment and rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, a manatee that was struck by a boat propeller near Key Colony Beach in the Middle Keys last August is almost done his rehabilitation at the Seaquarium and is expected to be released back into the wild in the next couple of weeks, Stella said.

The juvenile male suffered deep slashes to his tail, crushing some vertebrae during a boat strike on Aug. 9. The six-foot long, 350-pound mammal nearly lost its fluke in the strike.

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204

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