Photos and video of manatees spotted in different parts of the Chesapeake Bay have been circulating on social media—but the latest manatee sighting turned into a dire rescue situation.
Around noon Sunday, paddleboarders near Windmill Point in the Northern Neck spotted a manatee trapped in a pound net. Virginia Marine Police quickly responded to Windmill Point Marina.
Marine Police Officer (MPO) Neil Gunter found the manatee trapped, but swimming freely, in the net. It didn’t appear to be in any distress. Watch video of the manatee stuck inside the net area below:
MPO Gunter contacted the Virginia Stranding Response Program. They talked through an assessment of the manatee’s health and helped him device the best plan for safely rescuing it.
MPO Gunter moored his patrol boat to the pound net to monitor the manatee’s health and behavior, in case its condition worsened. He was also able to contact the owner of the pound net, who came out within the hour.
By 2 p.m., police say, MPO Gunter and the pound net’s owner were able to lower the fishing gear and allow the manatee to swim out freely, escaping unharmed.
The officer saw the manatee head towards the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
MPO Gunter says, “I was surprised to see a manatee up here, in fact I didn’t believe it when the call came in. But it was cool to see one in person and I am glad that I could help in its time of need. It’s what we do.”
A Marine Police spokesman tells Bay Bulletin, “Manatees are definitely a rare sight in the Chesapeake Bay, especially the Norther Neck. If boaters see one, typically we ask that they give them a wide berth and if one appears to be in distress to let our operations center know at 1-800-541-4646.”
The trapped manatee wasn’t the only sighting over the past week. The sightseeing boat tour company Rudee Flipper Dolphin and Whale Watching also posted video on Facebook of a manatee that visited their marina at the Rudee Inlet.
And a photo taken on the St. Marys River in Southern Maryland circulated over the weekend, surprising many along the Patuxent River watershed.
-Meg Walburn Viviano