Manatee researchers thought that there was a rescue manatee named Daphne trapped in a sewer under a Cape Coral street Tuesday.
Denise Boyd, manatee research biologist in Southwest Florida for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, said a manatee research tag was located via electronic signal.
“Here, in the middle of Cape Coral,” Boyd said.
She said FWC law enforcement and Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute tracked the tag to SE 9th Place with the help of FWC biologists and the Cape Coral Public Works Department.
“We have used GoPro video and confirmed that there’s no manatee at the other end of the research tag,” Boyd explained. “We had concerns (that a manatee was trapped). That’s why we took so much time.”
The FWC was just happy to get the tag back since it is worth around $1,000. Most of the gear was recovered, except for a piece of the belt that goes around the manatee, which was stuck at the bottom of the sewer and unrecoverable.
“These research tags are coded and colored for each specific manatee,” she said. This particular one was for Daphne, who was rescued in the Cape Coral area, rehabilitated and released about a month ago, Boyd said.
Daphne’s story included the the dependent calf’s rescue with her mother but had a somewhat sad ending. Her mother, who was injured, died and now Daphne is out and about without a tracker.
“She was a young animal,” Boyd said. “That’s why she was being tracked.”
Boyd said finding a tracking tag like this is exceedingly rare. In fact, in her 16 years with the FWC this is the first time in a storm drain, she said.
Jen Galbreath, from Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, said after Daphne’s mom died she was raised in captivity at Sea World in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“She was just released here a few weeks ago,” she said. “I had been monitoring her to make sure she does do ok. And today I tracked her tracker to this location.”
The possibility of a young manatee trapped under city streets was the reason for the commotion, she said.
Galbreath said the equipment attached to manatees like Daphne is designed with weak sections so that if an animal gets hooked or entangled on something it will break away rather than possible harm the animal.
“It could have happened in a canal and with the storm washed in through the drains,” she said. “She might not have been here at all. This is the best possible outcome for this situation.”
For now, though, Daphne is sans tracker. But, Galbreath and Boyd said, the young manatee does have microchips in her shoulder so if she is ever captured again, she can be identified.
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