-- A female manatee was apparently too tired after mating on shore and was stranded on a Florida beach. Thankfully, locals discovered her and she was rescued after six hours.
The manatee was first discovered on Disappearing Island in Ponce Inlet, Fla., by Jim Yurecka, an employee at Ponce Inlet Watersports, and his colleagues on Wednesday morning.
“It is a large animal and we are located only about half a mile away from where it was,” Yurecka told ABC News today.
Yurecka said he saw a mating herd of manatees at Disappearing Island on Wednesday morning. After a while, the group went back to the ocean, leaving only one female behind.
“I was trying to see if it would go back itself,” Yurecka said. “But it wasn't moving.”
Yurecka immediately called the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Florida, informing rescuers of the situation.
FWC spokesman Brandon Basino told ABC News that the agency got the call around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“Our closest station is based in Jacksonville, which is about two to four hours away from the beach, depending on the traffic," Basino said. "So we contacted the Volusia County Sheriff and monitored the situation over the phone while sending our staff over."
FWC initially waited for the female manatee to move back to the ocean by itself, Basino said, but it appeared that the manatee was too exhausted to move. FWC contacted the Marine Science Center based Ponce Inlet, Fla., which was a few miles away from the beach where the mammal was discovered.
“It is quite natural for female manatees to swim to shallow water during mating season,” Georgia Zern, manager at the Marine Science Center told ABC News.
“The manatee was only about 30 feet away from the water," Zern said. "It just appeared that the female manatee was too tired to go back by itself."
The rescue team set up a tent over the manatee to prevent sunburn, fed it fresh water, and sprayed sea water to cool down the mammal, which was estimated to be 10 feet long and around 1,000 pounds.
"The Disappearing Island is a popular spot for tourists, so there were a lot of people nearby," Zern said. "In the end, about 20 people used a canvas stretcher and lifted it back into the water."
The manatee was brought back to the water at 3:30 p.m., around six hours after it was discovered.
"If it was left on shore on low tide at night, it might not make it until the next morning," Yurecka said.
"The manatee was pretty lucky that it was discovered in the morning," Yurecka said.