Skinny Mother Manatee

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On February 23, 2015, a very small and skinny mother manatee swam into Three Sisters Springs along with her young male calf. A Manatee Watch volunteer at Three Sisters Springs noticed and asked me about the pair. I got a series of underwater pictures for ID to send to researchers and officials at U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Feb 23 2015 I was asked to take photos of this very small and skinny mother manatee and her young male calf. Three Susters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

Feb 23 2015  A very small and skinny mother manatee and her young male calf. Note deep vertical chest dent. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

Since our Florida weather warmed up so fast and dramatically, I haven’t seen or heard about them since.

It is possible the female is just extremely malnourished, but when I see deep belly rolls like this I know it’s a real concern. I’ve seen this a number of times over the past ten years, since I have been aware of what an emaciated manatee looks like.

Skinny mother manatee side view

Feb 23 2015 Side view of very skinny mother manatee showing deep belly folds. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

Above is a side-view of the skinny mother from the same day. Her male calf is resting on the other side. I’ve only seen rolls like this on manatees in serious condition. Again, this is only a perspective that can be seen from underwater. Let’s hope for the best she and her calf will be rescued or, with all our warm March weather, she will somehow pull through. Manatees are quite tough and resilient. USFWS is around the springs constantly now and I’m sure if they see her a careful assessment will commence. I haven’t heard of anyone reporting on her again since February 23rd, but I know my series of photographs was received and the Manatee Watch volunteer who saw her reported it also.

These belly rolls look very similar to a young manatee we had been watching for a couple of weeks and helped locate for rescue in 2013. USFWS along with FWC rescued it on Valentine’s Day 2013 and transported it to Lowry Park Zoo manatee rehab in Tampa. They named it “Amour”. Unfortunately it died a week later. That young manatee was so skinny because it had swallowed monofilament and the wad of line was embedded in its stomach tissue. I hope this mother manatee isn’t experiencing something similar.

Small skinny mother manatee

Feb 23 2015  ID shot of skinny mother and her young male calf. Even though she has lots of algae, distinct markings like a tail notch on the right help determine ID. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

Feb 23 2015  It's important when photographing manatees of concern to show location in the springs. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

Feb 23 2015 It’s important when photographing manatees of concern to show location in the springs. Some mother and calf pairs frequent the same area. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

Skinny small mother manatee calf

Feb 23 2015  Lean on me… Hopefully this mother will either be rescued or recover as her calf depends on her. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida.

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Best, Carol