Paddleboarders reported seeing a manatee caught in a pound net near Windmill Point Marina on Aug. 27 around noon. Officer Neil Gunter of the Virginia Marine Police quickly responded and found the manatee swimming freely within the pound net without any signs of distress.
The manatee’s health was assessed by Officer Gunter, who contacted the Virginia Stranding Team for assistance in devising a safe rescue plan for the animal. The officer secured his patrol vessel to the pound net and monitored the manatee’s health and behavior. He also contacted the pound net owner during this time.
Officer Gunter quickly found the pound net owner and asked him to assist in lowering the fishing gear to free the manatee within the hour.
“I was surprised to see a manatee up here, in fact, I didn’t believe it when the call came in,” Officer Gunter said. “But it was cool to see one in person, and I am glad that I could help in its time of need. It’s what we do.”
Officer Gunter and the pound net owner lowered the fishing gear at 2 p.m. The manatee swam out without harm and continued its journey out of the Chesapeake Bay.
A manatee was spotted enjoying the water near Windmill Point in a video posted on social media. It is unknown if this was the same manatee that was rescued from a net on Sunday.
The Florida manatee, a type of West Indian manatee, inhabits coastal waters, rivers and springs in the U.S. Some of them migrate along the East Coast and travel as far north as Massachusetts in the summer, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Florida manatees can be found in the Gulf of Mexico as far west as coastal Louisiana and sometimes in Texas. They migrate to warmer water habitats in Florida during the coldest months of winter.