As Hurricane Irma approached the west coast of Florida, the storm sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, stranding two manatees in the muck as the water receded. Several people tried saving the huge mammals, but they were unable to move them.
Michael Sechler, who took the photo above, waded out with his friends to help.
"My friends and I couldn't move these massive animals ourselves, and we called every service we could think of, but no one answered," Sechler posted on Facebook. "We gave them as much water as we could, hoping the rain and storm surge come soon enough to save them."
The friends hoped that by sharing the photos on social media, someone would be moved to help.
“We had to do something about it,” Tony Faradini-Campos of Sarasota told the Herald-Tribune. “We couldn’t just let those manatees die out there. We shared the pictures on social media and it just blew up. I was amazed how many people started sharing the story.”
According to the Herald-Tribune, two Manatee County deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials noticed the plea for help and responded to help move the manatees.
Marcelo Clavijo and his friends also happened upon the stranded pair and joined in the rescue efforts.
"Getting a lil stir crazy so we went for a ride and Went to check the bay at the end of Whitfield — the tide was sucking the bay dry which stranded 2 manatees on the flats so we went for a ride and ended up saving 2 manatees with a hand full of people and 2 of manatees finest that were knee deep in mud right next to us," he posted on Facebook. "it was a pretty cool experience, we rolled them on the tarp and then dragged them a 100 yrds it was crazy, now back to reality of a hurricane coming #manateelivesmatter"
Here's the video of their rescue:
Nadia Gordon, marine mammal biologist with Florida FWC, told the Bradenton Herald that the agency had received several reports of stranded manatees.
“We’re not actually intervening at this point [in most instances],” Gordon said. “Unfortunately with manatees, they are accustomed to being tidally stranded at times.”
The FWC suggests that no one try moving beached or injured manatees themselves, because they are state and federally protected species. Instead, report the location to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline 1-888-404-3922.
“When the tide comes back in, we do have concerns of manatees ending up in areas where they naturally wouldn’t,” Gordon told the Herald, saying that she doesn't think they'll be hurt.