WEEKI WACHEE — From the fishing pier at Jenkins Creek Park on Wednesday, Jon Cone looked down into the water at the lifeless female manatee floating near a piling and shook his head.
"Poor thing," Cone said as he wiped raindrops from his cheek. "I don't think she ever knew what hit her."
Cone, who discovered the body of the 6-foot long mammal Tuesday evening, spent Wednesday morning waiting for Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists to arrive to begin an investigation into the manatee's death.
But, Cone, the owner of the Kayak Shack, near the park, said he suspected the animal died after being struck by a motorboat.
"There are deep prop gashes across her back, and I saw blood coming from her mouth," said Cone, who added that he frequently sees speeding boats near the Jenkins Creek inlet.
However, FWC outreach coordinator Wendy Quigley said the cause of death will not be determined until biologists complete a necropsy. The results are expected in a couple of days.
So far this year, 48 watercraft-related manatee deaths have been reported in state waters, including one in April near Bayport.
Cone said that when he arrived Tuesday, he saw another manatee nosing the dead animal as if trying to rouse it.
"That was sad to see," he said.
Although not designated by the state as manatee protection zone, the area in and around Jenkins Creek is posted with signs reminding boaters that manatees are in the vicinity throughout the year.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or email@example.com.