As Hurricane Irma charged up Florida’s west coast Sunday afternoon, it sucked up water along the way, draining waterways and bays.
As a result, two manatees found themselves stranded on now-dry land just north of Sarasota.
“Went out to the bay and saw two objects out where the water receded so we took off our shoes and walked out through the shells to find two beached manatees,” Michael Sechler wrote in a Facebook post Sunday afternoon that has since been shared more than 3,300 times.
“One wasn’t moving, the other was breathing and had water in its eyes,” Sechler continued. “My friends and I couldn’t move these massive animals ourselves, and we called every service we could think of, but no one answered. We gave them as much water as we could, hoping the rain and storm surge [would] come soon enough to save them.”
But it turns out the manatees didn’t need the storm surge after all. Between law enforcement officials and a group of citizens, the manatees – stranded, of course, in Manatee County – were rescued and carried back into deeper water, Fox 13 reported.
Another Floridian, Marcelo Clavijo, also said he helped in the rescue of the manatees. Clavijo wrote on Facebook that he came across the sea cows after he was getting “stir crazy” from the storm.
“It was a pretty cool experience,” Clavijo said in a post that has been shared more than 30,000 times. “We rolled them on the tarp and then dragged them a 100 [yards].”
When helped back to deeper waters, both manatees “swam off,” Clavijo told Fox 13.
Nadia Gordon, a marine mammal biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the Bradenton Herald that while the commission has received several reports of beached manatees, they are “not actually intervening at this point.”
“Unfortunately with manatees, they are accustomed to being tidally stranded at times,” Gordon said, adding that females can beach themselves during mating season for a break.
“We just let nature take its course,” she said.
The Bradenton Herald said that people should not attempt to move manatees themselves because they are protected at the state and federal levels.