Georgia was one of the most endearing manatees who wintered at Blue Spring State Park and was a favorite of park visitors as well as Save the Manatee Club members and staff. Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Specialist, said she often bumped his research canoe just to say hello.
Rescued as an orphaned calf in Brunswick, Georgia, in 1991, she weighed just 64 pounds. After rehabilitation, she was released at Blue Spring in 1997, a nearly six-year-old, ten-foot-long, 1,635-pound adult. She made Blue Spring her winter sanctuary, where her interactions with people necessitated protective measures. Signs funded by the Save the Manatee Club cautioned against touching manatees, and a ban on swimming and diving during manatee season aimed to address “people problems.” Georgia’s spirited nature led to numerous adventures. Before the swim ban, she once “borrowed” a pair of jeans from a dock, carrying them briefly before dropping them. On another occasion, a ranger found her in his backyard after his dock flooded due to rainstorms.
Her annual visits to Blue Spring State Park saw her as one of the first and last manatees of the season, making several appearances. Georgia was a doting mother, having seven calves, including Peaches, Savannah, Macon, Destiny-Kaitlyn, and three unnamed males. Her motherly instincts extended to caring for orphaned manatee calves. She was often accompanied by and nursed juveniles during the 2013–2014 season when biologists noticed she was becoming progressively thinner.
In April 2015, we received the sad news that Georgia had died. Earlier, she had been rescued and taken into rehabilitation. Her rescue occurred due to apparent weight loss and concern for her well-being. Unfortunately, she died following a medical procedure to extract the remains of an unborn fetus she retained after an unsuccessful pregnancy that had begun prior to her rescue.
Georgia will be greatly missed by Save the Manatee Club members and staff, as well as the staff and many visitors at Blue Spring State Park. She was a wonderful and caring mother manatee – not just for her own calves but also for orphans in need of care.