On arrival at the address, the FWC personnel directed team
members to a large manatee in the storm drain at the intersection
of two residential roadways. Contractors paving the roadway had
discovered the animal in the open grated drain, hearing it snorting, as manatees do when surfacing to breathe. There was also a
30-inch manhole access in the center of the intersection as well. It
was later found that the manatee had traveled more than a third
of a mile from where it had entered the storm drain outflow to
the St. Johns River.
The manatee was estimated by FWC to be nine feet long
and weigh around 1,000 pounds. It was unable to turn around
because of its size, as the concrete pipe was only 36 inches in
diameter. An eight-inch sewer pipe bisecting the manhole in the
roadway blocked the mammal from moving forward.
After discussions with Gordon and David Baughman of the
City of Jacksonville (COJ) Public Works, it was decided the TRT
would excavate the concrete drainage pipe, cut off the top half,
and move the animal into the opened area and onto a submerged
FWC lifting canvas sling. The closest area to attempt this was
about 30 feet from where the curbside drain emptied into the system. Public works dispatched a backhoe to assist in the excavation
and lifting operation, and the area was checked for the presence
of underground utilities prior to any digging. The Jacksonville
Sheriff’s Office (JSO) provided traffic and crowd control.
During the entire excavation and cutting operation, the mana-
tee was isolated from the work area by blocking the culvert at the
curbside access, using one of the FWC canvas pickup slings with
poles attached. The FWC biologists monitored the condition of
the “patient” during the operation, as there were saws, fans, and
excavation equipment working close by. The water level in this
drainage system is directly tied to the St. Johns River and, as it
is tidal in nature, concern about the outgoing tide draining the
water to a level that could prove dangerous to the animal was
taken into consideration. The TRT took steps to ensure the level
Left: The FWC personnel directed team members to a large manatee in the
storm drain at the intersection of two residential roadways.
Above: An eight-inch sewer pipe bisecting the manhole in the roadway blocked
the mammal from moving forward.
Above: Wooden shims were used to prevent the concrete from collapsing back
onto itself and pinching the blades.
Below: One firefighter handled the rigging and lifting operation.