Friday, October 16, 2009

Manatee Stranded in New Jersey

Photo from USGS

A rescue attempt is being planned right now for a Florida manatee stranded in New Jersey's Arthur Kill. The manatee, whose name is Ilya, is huddling near an outfall pipe at an oil refinery in Linden. Marine scientists know this sea cow well. He has been making his way up and down the East Coast for the past 10 years and has been spotted recently in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maryland.

The outfall pipe is the only place where Ilya can now find water warm enough to survive. Manatees need a water temperature of 68 degrees or warmer. Below that, they become susceptible to hypothermia. The water in the Arthur Kill, located between New Jersey and Staten Island, is estimated to be between 60 and 64 degrees. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC), a rescue group in Brigantine, has obtained permission from federal wildlife authorities to try to move Ilya to their facility. There he will be placed in a holding tank to warm him. After a few days he will be flown to Florida, possibly aboard a military transport plane.

Bob Schoelkopf, director of the MMSC, reports that Ilya appears to be in good shape. For the time being, he is being guarded by authorities in a fenced-off, heavily guarded section of the refinery that is not accessible to the public.

Today's bad weather made a rescue effort impossible, but another attempt may be made tomorrow or Sunday if the rain and wind subside. Charles Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said he hopes Ilya can hang on until the storm passes.

So do we.