After a sickly young manatee was rescued last week, he was transported to Orlando to see if he would survive.

Now he’s on track to a smooth recovery.

The male manatee was found by Punta Gorda resident Trina Talbakov, 31, in the brackish canal behind her home. After seeing him passively drifting near the docks, Talbakov called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which rescued the manatee the next day on Jan. 4.

The manatee, nicknamed “Bubs” by Talbakov, was transferred to SeaWorld in Orlando to be rehabilitated from an old boat strike and cold stress. He is expected to recover.

“At this time this animal is stable and being treated and observed by our rescue team as well as our veterinarian team,” said SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando spokesperson Lori Cherry.

This was the first manatee to be rescued this year in Florida. Last year, SeaWorld rescued 72 manatees, which was a record year for them. FWC reported 135 preliminary manatee rescues for 2018.

“If this animal continues to move in the direction it is going in, we would hope to see it returned to its natural environment in the next few months,” Cherry said.

Rescued manatees typically get released in the general area they were found. However, if it is still cold or conditions are not ideal, the manatee will be transferred to a different, safer location, said Andy Garrett, the state’s manatee rescue coordinator.

“I’m so happy that he’s doing good,” Talbakov said.

Usually observed in smaller manatees during the winter, cold stress happens when manatees are exposed to acute or prolonged cold weather. Cold stress typically causes “bleaching on their skin, visible abscesses, unresolved sores (and) a heavy barnacle or algae load,” the FWC states on its website.

The FWC reported 77 manatee deaths in 2018 caused by cold stress, 121 deaths caused by watercraft and 211 deaths caused or suspected to have been caused by Red Tide.

Talbakov hopes to be present when “Bubs” is released. He might even remember her. “They’re social animals,” Talbakov said. “He did always swim to the dock by me.”

The majority of manatee rescues occur as a result of citizens making reports through FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline. FWC urges the public to report sick, injured or dead marine mammals and sea turtles to this hotline at 888-404-3922.

To prevent watercraft injuries to manatees, Garrett urges boaters to be observant in shallow, grassy areas, or areas that are known to have a lot of wildlife. He also recommends boaters observe legal speed zones.

Residents can support manatee rescues through purchasing the manatee license plate for their vehicle, which covers FWC’s rescue and research operations, Garrett said.

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