Largo, Florida-- A shadowy creature spotted by area residents lurking in the county Bypass Canal turned out to be a trapped manatee.
Biologists believe the near thousand pound marine mammal swam over a flooded barrier, possibly during Tropical Storm Fay, and then became stuck when water levels returned to normal.
With winter approaching, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers worried the manatee would get sick and die if unable to make its way to warmer waters as temperatures dropped.
After days of searching, the manatee was located Monday in shallow water near Bryan Dairy Road. Biologists tracked the animal north and were able to capture it using a net.
A team of volunteers and bystanders helped lift it out of the water and onto a truck. It was transported to a boat ramp near Veterans' Memorial park in St. Petersburg and released back into the Gulf.
Experts believe the manatee will likely make its way to the warm water discharge of the TECO Big Bend Power Plant to stay warm during winter.
Beau Zimmer, 10 Connects News