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Orphaned manatee calf Squirrel, bonds with surrogate mom

COLUMBUS, Ohio – When they saw the tiny face full of whiskers surfacing for air in the nearby canal, the Florida residents knew it was time to call for help.

The little manatee’s mother wasn’t coming back.

Alone, the calf hovered around a large boulder — an object rescuers say she probably became attached to in her mother’s absence. She had been alone for more than a day, much longer than a mother would typically leave a calf on its own. When the rescue crew arrived, a man scooped up the 65-pound sea cow in his arms to get her to safety.

“She was not budging from that rock. But thank God she didn’t, because it made it really easy to get to her,” recalled Mary Stella, spokeswoman for the Dolphin Research Center, based in the Florida Keys, which operates one of several manatee rescue teams in the state. She had a bacterial infection, no food and was getting weaker, with no mom to guide her. She probably would have died.”

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