Manatees Rescued After Mass Stranding in Storm Drain

PHOTO: Two manatees rescued from a storm drain in Satellite Beach, Fla., Monday, February 23, 2015.PlayMalcolm Denemark/Florida Today
WATCH Rescuers Work to Free Manatees

Rescuers freed a group of at least 17 manatees stuck in a mass stranding in a storm drain in Satellite Beach, Florida.

The manatees were freed early Tuesday, Satellite Beach Fire Department Captain Jay Dragon told ABC News.

Crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Satellite Beach Fire Department and Police Department and city utilities worked to access into the culverts where the marine mammals were trapped, so a five-member team from SeaWorld could lift them out and release them back into the water, officials said.

With rain in the forecast, there was concern that the animals stuck in the drain could drown if the culvert were to fill with water.

Manatees, which are very curious, occasionally swim into storm drains, but because the culvert gradually narrows, some larger animals can get wedged and stuck, according to Ann Spellman, a marine biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Even if only one gets physically wedged in the pipe, any others following it can't get out, because they cannot swim backwards and don't have room to turn around.

After the mass stranding was discovered Monday, the city installed grates on the mouth of the culverts in the area to prevent any other manatees from swimming in.