Two deputies near St. Petersburg, Florida held a manatee’s head above water for hours to help it breathe and ended up saving the animal’s life.
Deputy Jill Constant got a call about a struggling manatee and rushed to the scene in Shell Key Preserve, a nature preserve near St. Petersburg.
The manatee appeared to be trying to lay on the rocks, but it couldn’t and stayed in the water while struggling to breathe.
Manatees may be water-dwelling animals, but as mammals, they must breathe air to survive. They can hold their breath for approximately 20 minutes before needing to resurface. It’s likely with the rampant red tide in the area that the manatee was not able to get enough oxygen and needed assistance.
The police deputies stepped in and literally held the manatee’s head above water for hours while they waited for Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists to arrive.
“This manatee is going to die right in front of us and I’m not letting that happen! [. . .] We stayed in the water for two hours holding its head up until it could be rescued,” said Deputy Constant.
Manatees are related to elephants, and you can see the familial resemblance. They’re nicknamed “sea cows” because they graze on seagrasses. They’re incredibly large, averaging 10 feet long and 1,200 pounds, so these two police officers had to work hard for their heroic save.
“I thought I was going to drown,” Deputy Constant told Miami Herald. “A martyr for the cause.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife officials later remarked that the animal likely would have died without assistance.
Manatees are no longer listed as an endangered species as of four years ago, but they are categorized as threatened in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
The total statewide manatee mortality number recorded 800 manatee deaths in 2022. Common causes of death statewide include collisions with watercraft and starvation or chronic malnutrition.