Trapped Manatee Eludes Capture Again
HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. (AP) _ A manatee sucked into a nuclear plant cooling pond two months ago eluded rescuers again Wednesday.
So far, Natalie, as the 1,200-pound sea mammal was nicknamed, has not been nabbed by divers, floating traps, anchored traps, and lettuce and hyacinth lures and even the taped chatter of other manatees.
″This one is obviously very bright,″ said Florida Power & Light Co. spokesman Ray Golden.
Biologists believe Natalie is an oceangoing manatee, and, unlike placid river-dwelling cousins, is more skittish of humans, he said.
Wednesday’s failure was the fifth since Feb. 1, when Natalie was found after apparently being sucked from the ocean through a large pipe into the St. Lucie nuclear plant cooling-water system.
Under the direction of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts, rescuers tried to circle the nine-foot manatee with a 400-foot shark net.
Natalie had escaped from nets before by lifting the bottom with her nose, so Fort Pierce fishermen Glen Brough added extra lead weights to hold down the lower edge.
It didn’t work. By late Wednesday afternoon, Natalie was still free, said Golden.
″We’re not sure how she’s doing it,″ he said. ″We don’t know if she’s swimming away from the boat as it approaches, or if she’s diving to the bottom, underneath the net.″
The rescuers will return Thursday to try again, said Golden.
The rescue is for the manatee’s own good, he emphasized. Biologists are unsure if there is sufficient food for Natalie in the cooling pond. The manatee so far has refused to eat offerings from her human landlords.
Only about 1,200 of the protected Florida manatees remain in the wild.