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Ilya the Travelling Manattee Missing Again

Ilya, the manatee that reappeared off Staten Island Thursday–way too far north for his safety–has gone missing again, thwarting any attempt to rescue him from the cold waters. Ilya ate a whole case of lettuce “and was last seen going back into the river,” says Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This was late yesterday afternoon, and there’s been no sighting of the animal since then.”

Ilya, a 16-year-old manatee distinguished by his boat scars (a white one on his head and a missing chunk of tail), surprised biologists this summer by migrating all the way up to Cape Cod from his Florida home. Now he’s racing the cold weather–and seems to have been entranced by the false promise of warmth from the warm water run-off of an oil refinery in Elizabeth, NJ. The spot that he’s at is warm enough, says Underwood, but the rest of the Arthur Kill tidal estuary dips below his requisite 68 degrees. That means he should be in North Carolina by now, according to NOAA’s water temperature map. That’s about 200 miles, or three or four days manatee travel.

Biologists figured Ilya was safely headed to warmer waters after he wasn’t seen since an appearance in Milford, CT, on September¬† 26. Then he showed up in a heavily industrial area. Underwood won’t say exactly where–but it’s guarded private property anyway.

The Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Station has plans to rescue him–if they can find him and catch him. Rescuers typically keep manatees at risk in place by offering them food and the fresh water they crave. But that sometimes has the effect of buoying their spirits so much they take off. The rescuers were put off by the bad weather Saturday–and had other rescues to do.

Want to See a Manatee in the Wild? Check out this map and list of places.

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