Ocean Advocate News has the privilege of being based out of Central Florida, close to both coasts and the wonderful springs that Florida has to offer.
One of those special places is Blue Spring State Park. Blue Spring prides itself as being the "Winter home for manatees" with hundreds flocking to the area to stay warm in the winter.
Ocean Advocate News visited Blue Spring State Park on the off chance of seeing a manatee so late in the season, and was pleasantly suprised to see one lone manatee remain in the run. The manatee, Pixie, was tagged by Sea to Shore Alliance as part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership to follow her movements.
According to her profile:
Pixie was rescued as a very young orphaned calf on July 24, 2010. She was found in Daytona in the Halifax River, Volusia County, when she was 110 cm long and weighed 42 lbs, and brought in to SeaWorld in Orlando for medical care. She also spent time in Columbus Zoo to grow and gain weight before being moved to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Pixie was released at Blue Spring in the St. Johns River in January 2014.
Ocean Advocate News contacted Buddy Powell, Executive Director of Sea to Shore Alliance, to find out more about Pixie. Buddy has worked for more than 40 years conserving manatees starting at Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970s. He co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance in 2008. He said that occasionally a rescued manatee will imprint on people and not join the other manatees in the area. He said they were looking for volunteers who would monitor her at the springs to ensure swimmers were keeping a distance from her.
Melody, Manatee Field Biologist, told Ocean Advocate News they have volunteers ask that people ignore Pixie and stay 20 ft. away. She said worst case scenario, Pixie would be returned to captivity and put on a program to make her less reliant on humans.
Thursday morning Ocean Advocate News received a heartbreaking email from Melody.
Fish and Wildlife Service has made the decision to bring Pixie into captivity as soon as possible for her safety and for the potential safety risk she could pose to swimmers after noting some of her more aggressive pursuing behavior. A capture attempt is scheduled for today at 10 am.
Melody explained that Pixie was becoming even more aggressive when she ignored. She would most likely be returning to Lowry Park Zoo and would be a candidate for re-release next winter. The concern is that if she chases after people, it would put her at a higher risk with boaters when/if she were to leave the spring. For her safety, it is best to try to desensitize her to humans.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Pixie was successfully moved to Lowry Park Zoo on Thursday. Melody told DBNJ that Pixie will undergo “a behavior conditioning program to wean her off human attention and encourage her to socialize more with other manatees.”
Ocean Advocate News is grateful for the work done by Sea to Shore Alliance, and hopes to see Pixie at Blue Springs next winter. For more manatee updates, check out their partner’s page Save the Manatee Club.
Ocean Advocate News will continue to follow and report Pixie's story.
From Lowry Park:
Pixie arrived safely and is settling in to their Manatee Hospital and Aquatic Center. Her weight and body condition are in the normal parameters, so that is not a concern at this time. She will likely gain weight while she is there, since she will not need to find her own food. She is eating normally and has begun to socialize with other manatee patients. Their team will be working with her in the coming weeks and months to prepare her for another opportunity for release.