North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program

The goal of the Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program is to rescue and treat sick or injured manatees and then release them back into the wild. The endangered Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Man-made threats to manatees include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear. Sick and injured manatees are reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1-888-404-FWCC) which is responsible for coordinating manatee rescues in Florida. Rescued animals needing additional medical treament are taken to one of three federally permitted manatee critical care facilities: Lowry Park Zoo, Miami Seaquarium, and SeaWorld Florida. Following treatment these manatees are transferred to other Program partner facilities for additional rehabilitation while awaiting release. These include the Cincinnati Zoo, Columbus Zoo, EPCOT's The Seas, South Florida Musuem, and the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park.

Program Reports

Available program database reports

Service Program Positions and Information

Manatees Outside of Florida

A growing number of Florida manatees are reported each year outside of Florida. Manatees have been spotted as far north as Massachusetts on the eastern U.S. coast and as far west as Texas along the U.S. northern Gulf coast. While most of these manatees return to Florida as the weather cools the coastal waters, a number of these animals have been lost to cold stress or required rescue. Florida residents are accustomed to this native species. However, outside of Florida the public's fascination and curiosity can lead to unintended negative consequences. The following information is provided to guide the public in interacting with these manatees, and state wildlife agencies and marine mammal organizations in reporting sightings.

Tracking Released Manatees

Once manatees are medically cleared for release, high risk animals are often tagged for monitoring adaptation in the wild. For more information see the link below.

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Last updated: February 4, 2014