Manatee in Manhattan: Keys Creature Travels to Big Apple

At risk for hypothermia, biologists hope to airlift manatee out of NYC

A Florida Keys manatee who was apparently drawn to the bright lights of Broadway has spent the last several months swimming to New York, but it looks like his Big Apple stay is about to be cut short.

Biologists have been tracking Ilya the manatee's travels for months as he took off from Key West months ago, with stops in Maryland, Massachusetts and finally New York, New York.

Ilya, originally tagged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 10 years ago, had been missing for two weeks until he was finally spotted yesterday, according to the Miami Herald.

At seven feet long and with distinctive scars on his side and a chunk of his tail missing, there was no doubt the manatee spotted in NYC's harbor was Ilya.

But now, as temperatures in New York are beginning to dip, the water is becomming unsafe for the wandering manatee. Water temperatures below 68 degrees are extremely harmful to manatees and they can catch hypothermia and die. The temperature in New York was in the low 60s last night.

It's not clear why manatees like Ilya are leaving the sunny shores of Florida, but a handful do so each year. It could be global warming pushing them north, or it could be that their numbers are increasing, and more manatees means less food.

So what to do with Ilya? Scientists don't know how much he weighs - it could be as much as a ton - so until they come up with a solution, they're giving him food to try to keep him in one place. The plan is to use a large net to lift him on to a boat, then into a large tank that a helicopter will take back to sunny Florida.

But all that will only work if the weather holds, which it isn't expected to do.

"This is going to be tough," Charles Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Herald.

Contact Us