Veterinarians at the Lowry Park Zoo are treating a 1,100-pound manatee with its tail sliced to the bone by a boat propeller that likely would have suffered a lingering death without rescue.
Without treatment the female caught by state wildlife workers and volunteers on May 12 in Englewood would likely have added to the 31 manatees killed in state waters this year after being hit by boats.
Now, the manatee may not only survive but also become healthy enough to leave the zoo's manatee treatment center, said Ray Ball, director of medical sciences for the zoo.
"I think she's got a good chance to return to the wild," Ball said.
When it was brought to the treatment center, the manatee had pneumonia, was very weak and slowly losing blood from the wound that cut to her spine, he said.
At the time he described the propeller wound as "catastrophic" and wasn't sure the female sea cow would survive.
Workers haven't named the manatee but they hope to save the tail, said Virginia Edmonds, animal care manager at the zoo. Manatees have been brought to the zoo with a third of their tail missing.
Last year, boats killed 83 of the 767 manatees that died.
So far, the state has recovered 240 dead manatees with the majority – 108 – killed by cold.
Edmonds said boaters in the coming Memorial Day Weekend need to watch for manatees, especially in shallow water.
"They may not move until the last second and get hit," she said.