Officer surprised to see manatee in Va. helps free it from fishing net

“It was cool to see one in person and I am glad that I could help in its time of need,” the officer said. “It’s what we do"

By Olivia Lloyd
The Charlotte Observer

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — When the Virginia Marine Police officer got a call about a manatee, he said he didn’t believe it.

“I was surprised to see a manatee up here, in fact, I didn’t believe it when the call came in,” Officer Neil Gunter said in Aug. 28 news release from the marine police.

Police received a report on Aug. 27 from paddleboarders about a manatee trapped in a pound net near Windmill Point, in Virginia’s Northern Neck, officials said.

Gunter found the manatee “freely swimming and not appearing to be in distress,” police wrote in the release.

He contacted the Virginia Stranding Team, which assists in rescuing aquatic animals that end up entangled or stranded on beaches, according to the Virginia Aquarium.

Pound nets are a type of fishing gear that corrals fish into a pound and prevents them from escaping, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Gunter moored his boat next to the pound net and watched over the manatee to ensure it was alright, police said. He also contacted the owner of the pound net, who showed up shortly after.

“Gunter and the owner of the pound net were able to lower the fishing gear, allowing the manatee to swim out freely, unharmed and no worse for wear,” according to the release.

Despite the surprise over the manatee sighting, the “sea cows” can travel as far north as Massachusetts during warm months, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. However, most prefer to hang farther south.

“It was cool to see one in person and I am glad that I could help in its time of need,” Gunter said. “It’s what we do.”

Adult manatees normally grow 9 to 10 feet and weigh around 1,000 pounds, although they can weigh as much as 3,500 pounds, according to the FWC. The sea cows consume seagrass and other plants.

“The manatee was last seen continuing its journey back out of the Chesapeake Bay,” according to marine police.

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