‘Grunting’ Sea Creature in Florida Perplexes Social Media

A mysterious creature estimated at 15 feet in length was seen undulating in waters off a city park in Edgewater, Florida, and even video is not helping with a quick identification.

Joe Tiller reports he was on the water with his wife, April, when they recorded “the monster” Sept. 9 in the Indian River North at Menard-May Park. Edgewater is about 60 miles northeast of Orlando.

He thought it was a very big manatee, but something wasn’t quite right.

“In these waters, it’s not very uncommon to see them,” Tiller told McClatchy News. “This one looked very different! It had huge muscles like shoulders on a bull! It was as if it was rolling its shoulders like a bear under water! We did not see any fur, or head, or hands and feet.”

Tiller, a boat maker with Boston Whaler, says he has lived in the area 5 years and has never seen anything like it. He estimated the creature was 12 to 15 feet long — and it was “grunting.”

The sight were so disconcerting, the couple decided to steer clear of the hulk as it headed toward a nearby channel, he said.

Tiller shared his video Sept. 9 with the Florida Birds and Wildlife Facebook group and asked for help identifying the creature. His video has since been viewed nearly 70,000 times, with no clear answer.

Guesses have ranged from a manatee (struggling at low tide) to a black bear crossing the river. Others called it just plain “scary” and didn’t offer a guess.

“I can’t find any video online that shows manatees to look like this with rolling shoulders,” Tiller said. “The shoulders were terrifying and very powerful looking! Never have I seen a manatee look or act like this!”

McClatchy News shared Tiller’s video with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which says the manatee theories may be correct.

“Our biologists believe it looks like a manatee in very shallow water that is ‘pec walking’,” FWC officials said in an email. “(It) then moves to deeper water at the end of the video.”

Manatees, also known as “sea cows,” are aquatic mammals native to Florida, and they typically grow to 10 feet and around 1,000 pounds, FWC reports. However, some as big as 13 feet long and 3,500 pounds have been found, the agency reports.

Manatees have two fore limb flippers and “a large, round, flattened paddle-shaped tail is used for swimming,” FWC reports. Algae grows on their backs, and their skin is typically wrinkled and “leathery looking,” experts say.

This story was originally published September 19, 2022 12:28 PM.

Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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