North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Media Contacts:
FWS: Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
FDEP: Amy Graham (850) 245-2112 or (850) 778-7258 (cell)

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE AND FLORIDA DEP ANNOUNCE PLAN
TO DEFER THE RELEASE OF HOMOSASSA SPRINGS MANATEES

~Plan reflects commitment to manatee conservation~

HOMOSASSA SPRINGS - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced a decision to defer the release of manatees from Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Homosassa Springs) until 2011.

As part of this decision, two manatees currently being held in isolation at the park will be returned to the spring bowl at the state park next Thursday, December 24 at 9:00 a.m. Over the next several months FWS and DEP will continue working together to define an agreement that addresses the long term future of Homosassa Springs as a manatee rehabilitation facility and is consistent with FWS’ overall objective of releasing rehabilitated animals back into the wild.

“I am thankful for the input of the Floridians and elected officials for their commitment and concern for these animals. I look forward to continued cooperation with the FWS in our common goal to protect the endangered manatee," said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole.

With an annual attendance record of nearly 370,000 visitors, year-round manatee exhibits and the world famous “fishbowl” for viewing manatees underwater in their natural habitat, Homosassa Springs is one of the state’s most appealing manatee facilities.

“We greatly appreciate the extensive cooperation by our state partners in manatee recovery,” said Dave Hankla, field supervisor for the FWS North Florida office in Jacksonville.  “Homosassa Springs is a truly unique facility with an exceptional opportunity for education, rehabilitation, and conservation of habitat in one location.”

The first two-time Gold Medal winner honoring the nation’s best state park service, Florida's state park system is one of the largest in the country with 160 parks, most of which are open 365 days a year. Florida's state parks, which span more than 700,000 acres and include more than 100 miles of sandy white beach, provide an affordable outing for people of all ages.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  Visit FWS online at www.fws.gov/northflorida.

Weather permitting, the manatee transfer will take place:

9:00 a.m.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
4150 South Suncoast Boulevard (U.S. Highway 19)
Homosassa, Florida

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Last updated: May 1, 2013