PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – Two Florida deputies saved a distressed manatee by holding its head above water for hours last month after finding the sea cow too “exhausted” to prevent itself from drowning during a red tide, which is when toxins are produced due to a harmful algal bloom, the New York Post reported.
The large mammal was desperately trying to beach itself on the rocks of the Shell Key Preserve to keep from drowning. The preserve is located about 11 miles out from St. Petersburg. Ultimately, the manatee gave up and floated at the surface while taking labored breaths, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
Deputy Jill Constant with PCSO’s Marine and Environmental Lands Unit received a call from a concerned woman who said there was something wrong with a manatee in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Upon arrival, she said, “We’re watching it, and it will not go underwater. It just stayed at the surface with labored breathing.”
“This manatee is going to die right in front of us and I’m not letting that happen!” Constant recalls saying. “We docked the boat, I took off my equipment, and got in.”
Deputy Jill Constant, left, said she was not going to sit and watch the manatee die and entered the water with her partner to offer aid. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)
Constant and another unidentified deputy traded off turns keeping the manatee’s head above the surface.
“We stayed in the water for two hours holding its head up until it could be rescued,” the deputy said.
However, the manatee wasn’t thrilled about being rescued, the agency noted in a press release.
“At the end of the process it was not happy with us! At the beginning it was too exhausted, but after a while it had recovered its strength a little and it started thrashing. I thought I was going to drown – a martyr for the cause,” Constant said.
Finally, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists responded to the animal rescue. After offering it proper care, officials believe the manatee will make a full recovery.
Constant’s passion for wildlife is the reason she’s in the Marine and Environmental Lands Unit, according to the department.
“I originally wanted to work for FWC or be a game warden in another state, but my heart was set on Florida, especially when I realized that PCSO has a marine unit – which is unique, because a lot of other agencies don’t have a marine unit that not only does marine safety, but also focuses on preservation and fishing,” she said. “I wanted to work somewhere I could also do the wildlife side.”