NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - A manatee death in New Smyrna Beach has sparked outrage after the sea cow died hours before it was set to be rescued.
The 8-foot female manatee was spotted in a canal alongside Industrial Park Avenue near the New Smyrna Beach Police Department and first reported Tuesday to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
An FWC volunteer discovered the manatee deceased early Thursday, hours before crews were set to shut down the road and bring in heavy equipment to rescue it.
The news of the manatee’s death caused outrage as people questioned why it wasn’t rescued when it was first reported Tuesday.
FWC tells FOX 35 News they were tied up with other rescues and didn’t think the manatee would die overnight.
"We did have Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Response Team come and observe the animal, check on the animal, and it was wallowing in the mud, had normal respiration but unfortunately upon arrival today it was deceased," said Nadia Gordon with the agency.
Gordon said when pulled from the water the manatee was emaciated and malnourished, likely contributing to its death along with cold temperatures overnight.
Patrick Rose with Save the Manatee Club said this is an example of how grim the reality is for Florida’s manatees. He says many are starving, looking for food, and FWC – the agency working to rescue them – is overwhelmed and understaffed.
"It wasn’t like they were sitting around waiting to see if they were coming or not, they were literally out rescuing other manatees," he explained.
He says many rescues have been triggered by the manatee's die-off in the Indian River Lagoon. He says the outrage should be directed toward fixing the starvation issue that’s leading to record deaths.
"That’s really what’s the start of all this story. We’ve had already 150 or so manatees die this year because of the malnutrition issue, so we want to save everyone, but sometimes it’s just not possible and that’s what happened here," he said.