Officials pulled a dead manatee from a drainage area this week at Litchfield by the Sea.
According to officials from the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, the female manatee got stuck in a water control structure, an area of water that’s pumped in by a pipe.
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Waiting for the tide to fall, officials tied a rope around the animal and pulled it to shore Thursday. Craig Sasser, refuge manager at the Waccamaw Natioanl Wildlife Refugee, transported the animal for an autopsy.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever helped with anything like that,” Sasser said.
The female sea cow was between 3 and 4 years old, said Melanie Olds, a fish and wildlife biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Olds performed the autopsy on the manatee but did not yet have a cause of death.
While manatees do migrate to the area in the spring and summer to feed in the local marshes, it is uncommon for them to be in South Carolina when the water gets colder.
Olds said there are a number of reasons the manatee could have stayed in the area. According to Olds, the animal could have found a warm pocket of water or it could have been too small and thought it couldn’t make the journey south.
As temperatures began to drop along the Grand Strand, the water temperature where the manatee was stuck would also drop. This could cause a shock to her system, eventually causing her to die.
“You hope they get out of here before the water gets cold,” said Jeff McClary, co-founder of the South Carolina United Turtles Enthusiasts.
Finding dead manatees is uncommon, but it’s not the first time they’ve been found along the Grand Strand or in the state, Olds said.
Over the past two years, several manatees were rescued from the Charleston area and relocated.
Correction: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Craig Sasser’s name.