Thanks to early beach walkers on Sand Dollar Island, six manatees caught by low tide at Tigertail Lagoon had a good ending.
On Sunday, October 18th, at around 7:30 AM, Kym Ubele and Garvin Handley from Naples visited Sand Dollar Island for the first time. They came for an early beach walk and saw the manatees caught at low tide—there were six of them. John Guthrie of Marco was also walking the beach around the same time and saw the manatees at the lagoon at low tide.
Garvin Handley remarked that “it is very reassuring that so many people are concerned that people at the beach were ready to help out.” Kym Ubele, Garvin Handley and John Guthrie became manatee sitters for several hours.
Brittany Piersma, Winter Shorebird Steward for Audubon of the Western Everglades was also at the beach and had her hands full with an injured Green Sea Turtle when she heard of the six stranded manatees. She called for help and both City of Marco Island and County responded.
Marco’s Community Service Officers were on the scene and assisted in helping the volunteers travel quickly from the Tigertail Lagoon parking lot to the site of the stranding. They stayed close by just in case assistance was needed and were a valuable part of the responding team.
It was all hands were on deck for this rescue effort. A lot of help was needed to make sure all six manatees were doing well until the arrival of high tide. Shortly before noon, Megan Krzewinski and Emily Davidson of the Marine Mammal Rescue from Port Charlotte arrived. Collier County Park Ranger Brandon Rodriguez was also present along with Sea Turtle Collier County Monitor, Yesi Olvera. Hada Herring of the MMR Team arrived later with Sara Norris, sea turtle biologist from Rookery Bay.
On Sunday, October 4th, at this same location on Tigertail Lagoon, a beach walker first observed a Mom and calf at the shallows. These are tidally stranded manatees and this occurs when manatees are in shallow areas and the tide recedes.
On the same day, a third manatee was found stranded in front of the Tigertail concession and was moving forward with its flippers trying to get out. Successfully, with the tide coming in, it was able to swim back out to the gulf.
The situation in this part of the lagoon is nothing new. In March 2018, a report was finalized and presented by Humiston & Moore Engineers and Turrell, Hall & Associates to the Hideaway Beach Special Tax District. The report was meant to evaluate the changes in the lagoon system and provide recommendations to Hideaway for improved management of the lagoon system.
At a library presentation on September 18th, 2019, Dr. Dabees of Humiston & Moore Engineers reported that the segment of the lagoon directly to the north of Tigertail Beach is silted, and consequently, tidal flows from the north end of the lagoon—the only connection to the Gulf—are now insufficient to flush the lagoon area directly in front of Tigertail Beach.
From Dr. Dabees’ presentation, if we assume the existing trends continue, then in the short term, the Tigertail Beach Lagoon will become isolated from the other zones of the lagoon. Eventually, there will be no exchange of water, which will lower the salinity—turning into a brackish or freshwater pond—encouraging the growth of bacteria and algae.
We are coming into the dry season!