Manatee Awareness Month certainly brought The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature something to celebrate as we returned Doscal to the wild on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, from Horton Park in Cape Coral.
Doscal was a young orphaned, emaciated calf weighing just under 400 pounds when he was rescued from the Orange River in Fort Myers and taken to SeaWorld for initial treatment in April 2019. He came to The Bishop’s Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat in December 2019 and, by the time of his release, he weighed 656 pounds!
“We’ve been feeding Doscal hydrilla and other native vegetation to get him ready for the food he’ll be eating in the wild,” said Virginia Edmonds, Director of Animal Care. “Feeding wild foods like this is one way we help prepare our manatees for their return to the wild. Not only does it get them accustomed to the foods they’ll find in the wild, it also helps maintain gut bacteria that will aid in digesting a wild diet. ”
The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat at The Bishop is a Stage 2 rehabilitation facility — the place where manatees come after their critical health needs have been taken care of. Its main tasks are bringing rehabilitating manatees, rescued as orphans, up to the right size and weight for release or, if the animals were sick or injured, allowing them to finish the healing process. Typically, animals remain at The Bishop anywhere from a few months to more than a year.
Staff and volunteers from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute assisted with the release. Before he was returned to the wild, Doscal was outfitted with a special tracking tag by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute. The tag will allow us to continue to monitor him in the wild. The public can also watch his movements at www.ManateeRescue.org.
“We’re very happy to see Doscal return to the wild,” Edmonds said. “The tag will allow us to monitor his progress and we feel like he will do great!”
The Bishop has been doing manatee rehabilitation since 1998 and was a founding partner of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, a cooperative group of nonprofit, private, state and federal organizations that participate in manatee population management or manatee rescue and rehabilitation.
In all, The Bishop has cared for more than 40 manatees, including Viva and Felicia, who remain in our care. You can visit Viva and Felicia at The Bishop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. every Sunday.
Given her mother’s injuries and subsequent death, Felicia could be a poster child for Manatee Awareness Month, which was designated by the state of Florida to help remind boaters that manatees are beginning to move from summer feeding grounds to warmer water for the winter, and that to be manatee friendly they should follow safe boating guidelines and manatee speed zone designations.
“There are a few things you can watch out for when you’re boating,” Edmonds said. “First of all, wearing polarized sunglasses help cut through the water’s glare and give you a better chance of seeing manatees in the water. You can also watch out for manatee snouts, as they come to the surface to breathe, along with the ‘footprint’ manatees make with their tails as they swim.”
You Can Help Manatees!
Boat Safe: Follow all posted speed limits and place a spotter on your boat to watch out for marine life.
Call: If you see a sick or injured manatee, you can help by calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.
Donate: You can help support manatee rehabilitation at The Bishop by making a donation to our annual fund online at www.BishopScience.org/donate