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19 manatees stuck in drainage pipe returned to lagoon

Rescue workers comfort two manatees saved from a drain pipe Monday night in Satellite Beach before they were returned to the Indian River Lagoon. Officials don’t know how long the 19 animals were in the drainage system.
Rescue workers comfort two manatees saved from a drain pipe Monday night in Satellite Beach before they were returned to the Indian River Lagoon. Officials don’t know how long the 19 animals were in the drainage system.
Published Feb. 25, 2015

SATELLITE BEACH — Rescuers working late into the night freed 19 manatees stuck in a storm drain.

Capt. Jay Dragon of the Satellite Beach Fire Department said early Tuesday that the 19 manatees were all alive and were returned to the Indian River Lagoon System.

A manatee-rescue team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with police and firefighters, were helping the marine mammals Monday evening. Rescuers brought heavy earth-moving equipment to the Satellite Beach neighborhood.

Conservation commission Research Institute spokesman Brandon Basino said it is unclear exactly how the manatees became stuck, but noted that there was no grate on the storm drain. However, he added that manatees typically seek out warm habitats for the winter months.

"They're also curious animals, so there are a number of reasons they could have swam up there," Basino said. "We're still looking up how long they have been in the drainage system and working with the city to resolve the issue."

In the meantime, a temporary structure has been placed on the storm drain to prevent other manatees from swimming into it.

Basino said while the rescue was a lengthy process that manatees are able to survive out of water for extended periods of time. He added that the moist, dark and cooler temperatures at night were "factors working in our favor."

All of the manatees were marked with a grease pen. The nontoxic markers will allow commission biologists to find the manatees and check on their condition.