FWC rescues manatee hit by boat near Sanford marina

SANFORD, Fla. — Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued an injured manatee  from Lake Monroe near a Sanford marina Monday morning.

The manatee had been hit by a boat before noon, officials said.

FWC officials took the manatee to SeaWorld for rehabilitation.

"Once we get her back to SeaWorld and our veterinarian teams are able to start working on her, we'll have a much better diagnostics," said Jon Peterson with the SeaWorld rescue team.

Cora Berchem, a volunteer with the Save the Manatees club, noticed the injured manatee and alerted FWC.

"So the manatee is floating on the surface for a long time and is making attempted to go down but it cannot go down. So there's definitely something wrong with it," said Berchem.

The injury comes as watchdog groups say Florida is on pace for another record year for manatee deaths in 2018.

A total 166 manatees have died statewide through March 2. Cold spells are to blame for 51 deaths.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Jeff Ruch says Florida manatees are one big freeze away from an ecological disaster.

Red tide and boating deaths are another concern as manatees seeking warm waters often get stuck in residential canals.

Florida's annual manatee counts have more than doubled in the past 20 years, to more than 6,600. The federal government reclassified them from endangered to threatened.

Florida Today reports that a researcher at Florida Atlantic University is working on an alarm that could alert manatees of an approaching boat, possibly reducing deaths.

In 2017, 538 manatees died compared with 472 manatee deaths in 2016.