Meet Opal


opal manatee

Opal’s Information:

Rescue Date: 11/12/2019 Release Date: 02/18/2021
Rescue Location: TECO Powerplant, FL Release Location: TECO Powerplant, FL
Reason for Rescue: Orphan Calf Tag Number: 177775

Opal was rescued as an orphan calf at TECO, Hillsborough county, Florida on November 12, 2019. She was 171 centimeters long and weighed 182 pounds at the time of her rescue. Opal was transported to ZooTampa for care. She was released on February 18, 2021 at TECO in Hillsborough County. She was 217 centimeters in length and weighed 550 pounds. She will be monitored by Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute.

Field Notes:

August 2021

1. 08/26/2021 08:45 AM
Opal was spotted in a shallow area of the Little Manatee River today. She was resting in open water among mangrove islands, until she started to mill around. She found an area that had food and began to eat. She spent the rest of the time feeding while slowly moving around just enough to find more food. 

2. 08/18/2021 08:00 AM
Opal was in a shallow area of the Little Manatee River today.  After feeding, she decided it was time to rest and a successful body condition assessment was conducted, showing her to be in good shape.  She spent the rest of the observation resting on the bottom.

3. 08/13/2021 09:30 AM
Opal was spotted along a mangrove covered shoreline, in the Little Manatee River. She slowly made her way to a more secluded area lined with mangroves and several docks. After finding a quiet spot near one dock, she rested most of the time. Her activity picked up slightly, but she continued to stay within a few feet of the same dock. 

4. 08/06/2021 12:00 PM
Opal was milling around the south bank of the Little Manatee River. She slowly moved around under docks and between mangroves. Gas was observed twice.

July 2021

1. 07/30/2021 09:00 AM
Opal was milling among the mangrove islands in the Little Manatee River. She meandered around stopping to feed here and there before coming to rest. The wake from some passing boats disturbed her and she had to reposition herself. She grabbed a quick snack before settling back in for a nap. Gas was observed twice.

2. 07/23/2021 09:45 AM
Opal was feeding among some mangrove islands in the Little Manatee River. She was not amenable to a body condition assessment and entered the main body of the river, traveling to another set of mangrove islands. She found an out of the way spot to rest and with weekend traffic picking up on the river, was left to her own devices.

3. 07/21/2021 10:45 AM
Opal has been utilizing different areas of the Little Manatee River over the last few days. Today she was tucked into a tiny creek off the Ruskin Inlet. When she was ready to start the day, she meandered out, lingering at all the docks where the dogs came out to bark. She picked up speed and traveled for the remainder of the observation towards the main river.

4. 07/20/2021 09:45 AM
Opal moved out of the Bay and back into the Little Manatee River. Today she was resting with a couple of other manatees in a sheltered spot that is extremely popular with the Tampa Bay manatees. Gas was observed.

5. 07/12/2021 09:00 AM
Opal has been spending a lot of time out in the bay, the lush field of seagrass explains why. Today she was traveling into the shallow flats as the tide was coming in. She socialized with several other animals briefly, then traveled closer to shore where the good food was. She and her friends began feeding and continued till the end of the observation.

6. 07/08/2021 12:30 PM
Opal has been spending her time moving in and out of The Little Manatee River. Today she was traveling upriver and pulled off into a side inlet. She lingered near the bank then joined some other manatees. They were all feeding on parts of the mangroves that had been out of reach until the recent tropical storm. After the feast Opal moved to a deeper area to rest with respirations every 8min.

June 2021

1. 06/28/2021 09:15 AM
Opal was resting in a sheltered area off the Little Manatee River. There were a couple other heads popping up around her and eventually all the heads came together. There was some quiet socializing before they began feeding on submerged vegetation.

2. 06/17/2021 12:45 PM
Opal made a run out to the bay from the Little Manatee River but today was back in one of the sheltered bayous. She was moving up a tidal creek, taking advantage of the high tide to access areas of the creek where no boat was ever meant to go.

3. 06/08/2021 10:15 AM
Opal was traveling in the Little Manatee River when she met up with some manatees going the opposite way. The group interacted for a spell then continued in their respective directions. Opal pulled over to a small bayou off the main part of the river for a snack. She grazed on some submerged vegetation then tucked under the mangroves. She appeared to be reaching for mangrove leaves but the water level was just a little too low. She went back to feeding on the submerged vegetation. 

4. 06/02/2021 09:30 AM
Opal has started exploring further east in the Little Manatee River. Today she was milling in a small tidal creek, stopping to snack on submerged vegetation. She continued munching and milling for the entire visual. Gas was observed.

May 2021

1. 05/26/2021 12:45 PM
Opal has been moving into the tidal creeks in the Little Manatee River during high tide and with an exceptional high tide today she was enjoying the unrestricted access. She meandered through a skinny, grass lined creek eventually turning into the grasses. She found a small break in the vegetation and burrowed her way through essentially ending the visual. Gas was observed twice. She did appear to have a skeg scar on her back, near the peduncle that has not been observed before. 

2. 05/21/2021 09:00 AM
Opal was tucked into a sheltered area in the Little Manatee River. She was feeding on submerged vegetation, evidenced by her chewing when she lifted her head. A small piece of vegetation floated off her face but moved away too fast to be collected or identified. She traveled across to the other bank and began to feed for the duration of the visual.

3. 05/12/2021 11:15 AM
Opal is still enjoying her hide-a-way off the Little Manatee River. She was feeding near shore today, foraging along the bottom as she moved along the bank. She started to move in earnest towards a little creek she likes but met up a couple of manatees. She stopped for a while to engage with them then continued on her way.

4. 05/06/2021 09:15 AM
Opal was resting in a sheltered area off the Little Manatee River near a couple of other animals. They slowly became more active and started socializing, touching noses, and chasing each other. This continued for the remainder of the visual. 

5. 05/03/2021 08:00 AM
Opal has been using the high tides to explore the small tidal creeks off the Little Manatee River. Today she was resting in a small marina. The resident dock dog did a good job taking her respiration rate by barking whenever she took a breath, which was every 7-8 minutes. Gas was observed twice but the dog did not bark at that. 

April 2021

1. 04/26/2021 11:45 AM
Opal explored the eastern part of the Little Manatee River over the weekend but returned to her quiet bayou today. Although it was not so quiet today, as a mating herd was creating a ruckus. Opal skirted the group and moved along the bank where she found a spot to rest for a little while. Another manatee was feeding not too far from her so when she was refreshed, she made her way over and joined in.

2. 04/21/2021 11:00 AM
Opal was milling along the shore of a large bayou off the Little Manatee River. She poked along the bank, pushing her face into the vegetation but there was nothing to indicate she was feeding. 

3. 04/13/2021 02:00 PM
Opal was milling in a tiny creek, off a small cove, in the Ruskin Inlet. A mom/calf pair left the same area, shortly after Opal took off like she just remembered she left the oven on. She continued down the inlet until she stopped as abruptly as she started. She nestled into a stand of Cordgrass and was nibbling on the pieces in the water. Gas was observed.

4. 04/05/2021 10:45 AM
Observations were made from the public observation deck. Opal was initally identified at 10:45 on the east side of the first discharge in the middle of the channel where she was alone and slowly milling about the wind protected side of the discharge. Winds were from the WNW at 5-10 Mph, there was a slight chop on the TECO main channel on an incoming tide. She briefly repositioned to the Viewing Platform at 11:10 making it possible to get a good visual of her condition (she appears to be in good condition). She then moved back to her prior position west of the first discharge at 11:32 where she maintained position for another half hour before moving west to leave the Teco channel at end of the observation.

March 2021

1. 03/31/2021 09:00 AM
Opal was in a large cavorting group near E. G. Simmons Park. All manner of body parts were flinging into the air making it hard to tell which ones were hers. The large group broke into three different smaller groups and Opal moved into one of these where the activity was more casual socializing. As things in this group settled down Opal milled around under the mangroves until another group a little further away started ramping up and she made straight for them and joined in the frivolity.

2. 03/25/2021 09:45 AM
Opal was traveling with Retale for the entire observation. They were very decisive about heading into a residential canal area that they have frequented before. Once there, they seemed a little less sure which way they wanted to go. They would start up one canal then backtrack, go to a different one then back to one they already went to. They finally settled on a quiet cove where they met up with a mom/calf pair.

3. 03/22/2021 09:30 AM
Opal has been frequenting areas around Apollo Beach, moving back into TECO over the weekend. Today she was resting under the viewing platform with Retale. She opted out of a body condition assessment and traveled out past the first discharge. She met BettySue and they took turns following each other between the discharges. BettySue broke away to greet some new manatees coming into the canal and Opal moved off with another group. 

4. 03/15/2021 09:00 AM
Opal has been making moves in and out of TECO, spending whole days out around Apollo Beach then checking in at TECO. Today she was milling near the viewing platform then moved out between the discharges to rest. Gas was observed. 

5. 03/10/2021 11:00 AM
Opal was milling around between the last couple of discharges following another animal for a little while. She moved behind one of the discharge walls and rested for a long time. Near the end of the observation, she moved out to the center of the canal and started working her way towards the bay.

6. 03/08/2021 09:00 AM
Opal spent her time between the second and third discharges at TECO. She socialized with many different manatees then traveled out towards the exit almost making it to the buoys before turning around as another tagged manatee made its entrance. Opal accompanied Belle down the channel to the viewing platform then Opal went back out to the tidal walk.

7. 03/05/2021 02:15 PM
Opal made a move to TECO with the last cold front. She left today and was close by with multiple manatees doing magnificent things. The whole group was enthusiastically feeding on vegetation washing in with the tide. Opal was off by herself initially but within squeak distance. She maneuvered herself towards the group finding her own patch of food to eat and she did.

8. 03/02/2021 11:00 AM
Opal has been utilizing the grass flats in a shallow area just south of Apollo Beach. During low tide she has been moving into the residential canals and then moving back out at high tide. Today she was resting in one of those canals under a dock.

February 2021

1. 02/24/2021 11:45 AM
Opal was milling around the first discharge in the TECO canal. She moved toward a big group of manatees and socialized among them. The weekly alarm test went off at the power plant causing all the manatees to disperse. Opal traveled out to the third discharge but then slowly made her way back to the viewing platform where she settled to rest but another manatee, BettySue was against the idea and pestered Opal until she moved back out to the discharges.

2. 02/22/2021 09:45 AM
Opal was resting near the viewing platform at TECO with Viva. A mom and calf came close to them and both girls interacted with them until they left. Opal went back to resting. Viva moved towards Opal head butting her until Opal responded. The two interacted by trying to play with each other’s tag. When Viva decided to rest Opal milled around mouthing leaves on the surface but did not appear to consume any.

3. 02/18/2021 10:45 AM
Opal was released into the TECO canal and milled around the viewing platform briefly. Dex had moved into the canal and interacted with her until she began to travel out towards the bay.


opal manatee

All manatee Photos & Research conducted under USFWS Threatened Marine Mammal Scientific Research permit # MA770191.

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