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Manatee birth caught on camera in Sarasota County

Cindy Burnett caught the moment on camera while at her Siesta Harbor home.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Cindy Burnett was at home in Siesta Harbor when a manatee in distress caught her attention.

Burnett, who volunteers at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, called to report the behavior to the organization and it turns out it was giving birth to a calf.

The new mom was identified by Mote's Manatee Research Program through photo-identification of the unique scars on the mammal's back and tails.

Staff Biologist Jennifer Johnson looked through past records and learned the manatee was first documented in January 2005 at the Lee County Manatee Park in Ft. Myers. 

Since then, the manatee mom has been spotted ten times between 2005-2019 and has at least three other calves.  And it looks like the new mom wasn't the only manatee to give birth recently.

"We also saw quite a few manatee mom and calf pairs from the air around Sarasota County this week, including U2494 and her newborn calf," said Kerri Scolardi, Senior Biologist. "Many manatees are still in their spring distribution areas, so we can expect to see a lot of manatees on the move in the coming weeks, including mom and calf pairs, as local waters continue to warm."

As summer approaches, Mote is asking boaters to remain vigilant to help protect the species and its newborns. 

The non-profit marine research organization offers boaters the following tips to help keep the sea cows safe: 

  • Wear polarized lenses and use a spotter to spot marine life in the water.
  • Stow your line and dispose of trash properly. 
  • Never feed or provide water to manatees. Mote says this is both illegal and can get manatees accustomed to humans and alter their behavior.

"Whenever someone sees a sea turtle, manatee, dolphin, or whale in distress in Sarasota or Manatee counties, they should immediately call our hotline, and never attempt to assist any animal," Staff Biologist Amber Lea Kincaid added. "Taking videos is also very helpful for us, so when we arrive on scene, we can be prepared for what’s going on."

If you see a distressed or deceased manatee in the Sarasota or Manatee counties you are asked to call Mote’s 24/7 hotline at 888-345-2335.

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