Florida rescuers recently responded to a manatee in a particularly strange predicament. The animal had gotten a fishing lure caught in its mouth and flipper simultaneously, effectively attaching its foot to its face.
Fortunately, an onlooker spotted the manatee in trouble and called up the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which sent staff members to the scene. They were able to remove the hook and disentangle the flipper from a loop of fishing line. The animal was then brought to a rehabilitation facility for further assessment.
The rescue was part of an ongoing project called the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). The MRP is a network of government agencies and rescue organizations across Florida that have banded together to help save manatees across the state.
Currently listed as endangered, manatees suffer from habitat damage, collisions with boats and loss of the seagrasses they rely on for food. Still, they’re one of Florida’s most beloved mammals, and manatee swims are a popular tourist attraction.
So far, the MRP has been responsible for 45 manatee rescues this year. Some of the rescued animals are transferred to critical care facilities. Others are assessed, rehabilitated and quickly released back into the wild.
Most of the rewilded manatees are equipped with tracking devices, which helps scientists study their behavior and determine how to best protect them. You can follow the rescued manatees around using the MRP’s Manatee Map.
If you see a manatee in trouble in the wild, call the MRP hotline to launch a rescue (1-888-404-3922). The MRP also urges recreationists to pack out all trash whenever they’re adventuring near waterways or the Florida coast. You never know when it could end up in manatee habitat—or in an unsuspecting flipper.