Michael Sechler and a few pals were driving around Sarasota, Florida, the day before Hurricane Irma arrived, checking on friends and taking up last-minute supplies. When they passed by the bay, they noticed something odd: the water had vanished.
“We parked our cars and observed that the water had retreated as much as far as the eye could see,” said Sechler, a 26-year-old Florida native. “And we observed two things out on the ocean,” says the narrator. We couldn’t determine what they were from afar, but we wondered whether they were manatees.”
To find out, Sechler and his buddies removed their shoes and walked out into the bay.
Sechler explained, “It was largely simply swampy seaweed.” “Every time you made a step, your foot dropped a couple of inches. But we made it out there, and there were two manatees,” says the narrator.
Manatees, sometimes known as “sea cows,” are enormous aquatic mammals that feed on seagrass in Florida’s shallow, warm seas. These two manatees, however, could not travel without water. Sechler, in fact, assumed they were dead. When he knelt near one, though, he noticed the animal breathing and looking up at him.
“You could see water trails from its eyes,” Sechler added. “I’m not going to presume manatees weep,” she says, “but that’s how it appeared.”
The second manatee, approximately 50 feet away from the first, tried to flip over onto his back but got caught in the muck.
Manatees can survive strandings, according to Kelly Richmond, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “We know that manatees strand themselves, especially when they mate,” she explained, “so they can survive outside of water for a while.”
The unpredictability of the approaching hurricane, on the other hand, may have been deadly for the manatees. According to Richmond, it may have displaced or trapped them for an indeterminate amount of time.
Sechler and his pals attempted, but failed, to transport the manatees to the bay’s remaining water. “They were quite hefty,” Sechler explained.
They required assistance from a rescue group, but locating such assistance only hours before the hurricane struck proved to be tough. However, after sharing photographs of the stranded manatees on social media, assistance arrived: two deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the bay, placed the manatees onto tarps, and gently transported them back into the water.
“Even though the storm was approaching, they went above and above to assist these creatures,” Sechler added. “They’re the genuine heroes,” says the narrator.
While these two manatees were fortunate to get assistance, others may still be stuck as a result of Hurricane Irma’s devastation. It’s critical, according to Richmond, for individuals to report such events.
Richmond stated, “We need people to report [stranded animals].” “With such a large coastline and such a large storm, we can’t be everywhere.”
“We had eight manatees stranded in a water hazard on a golf course when Hurricane Hermine passed through,” she continued. “We responded because we received citizen reports, and we were able to solve the problem.”