HOMOSASSA SPRINGS - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program (Rehab Program) partners, recently received four manatees from Miami Seaquarium and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for continued rehabilitation. As a partner in the Rehab Program, Homosassa Springs is part of a network of facilities committed to the preservation of this special endangered species.
"Homosassa Springs is proud to be working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the rescue, rehabilitation and release of these manatees," said DEP Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Bob Ballard. "By having these manatees at the park, visitors are able to learn more about these gentle creatures."
On Thursday, March 11, Homosassa Springs transported Crystal, a small 300 pound female orphan from Miami Seaquarium. Crystal was rescued due to cold-stress from Crystal River and is currently in the above ground pool at the park. It is anticipated she will be placed in the spring run in the near future while awaiting release sometime during the 2010/2011 winter release cycle.
On Friday, March 12, Homosassa Springs transported three manatees from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. An unnamed 300 pound male rescued from Crystal River after ingesting fishing line is currently in the above ground pool with Crystal, and is to be released in the near future. UPC, a male weighing about 800 pounds was rescued from Wakulla Springs in 2008 after experiencing cold-stress. Big Brother, a 1,165 pound male, was rescued in 2006 from Three Sisters Spring in the Crystal River due to respiratory issues. Both UPC and Big Brother have been placed in the new separation fence area within the spring run at Homosassa Springs awaiting transfer to a manatee critical care facility in Puerto Rico.
All four of the manatees appear to be doing well in their new location at Homosassa Springs. As a result of this move, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has been able to provide additional space for treating more manatees requiring critical care.
”Freeing up space at the critical care facilities in Florida is especially important this year due the impacts the recent extreme cold temperatures had on the manatee population,” said Dave Hankla, field supervisor for the FWS North Florida office in Jacksonville, “and we appreciate Homosassa Springs’ willingness to take animals a little ahead of our original plans.”
Homosassa Springs has been a Rehab Program partner for over two decades and has, over the years, rehabilitated and released a number of manatees back into the wild.
Created in 1935 by the Florida Legislature, Florida State Parks has grown from eight to 160 parks over the last 75 years. Today, the Florida Park Service manages more than 700,000 acres of Florida’s natural environment, including 100 miles of beaches, eight National Historic Landmarks and 39 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Florida State Parks has been recognized by the National Recreation and Park Association as the nation’s first and only two-time Gold Medal winner for the nation’s best park service.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
For more information on Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park visit www.floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings. For more information on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visit www.fws.gov/northflorida.