The South Florida Museum is closed on Mondays, but this Monday was different after the loss of Bradenton’s beloved mascot Snooty the manatee.
Museum officials said a necropsy revealed that Snooty drowned, as the result of a “heartbreaking accident,” when he somehow made his way into an underwater area used to access plumbing for his tank but was unable to free himself. Officials said they do not know why a panel that covered the area had popped off.
Speaking at a Monday afternoon news conference, museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio said the “review process” into Snooty’s death will continue, but she could not estimate how long the investigation would take.
Flowers, cards, drawings from children, lettuce, carrots and a single burning candle adorned the front door of the museum Monday as those who loved Snooty honored the loss.
Snooty’s beginnings came about when Samuel Stout, the owner of a small aquarium on the city of Miami-owned Prince Vladimir, netted Snooty’s mother in Biscayne Bay in 1948. Snooty was born within days of the capture.
Denis Trupkin, Stout’s grandson, was 10 years old at the time. He spent a lot of time with his grandfather on fishing expeditions and will never forget the first time he saw Snooty, who the family called “Baby” until Snooty came to Bradenton in the 1950s after Stout’s aquarium went bankrupt.
He was like my grandfather’s child and he loved taking me to the aquarium to see him.
Denis Trupkin, grandson of the man who captured Snooty’s mother
“He was like my grandfather’s child, and he loved taking me to the aquarium to see him,” Trupkin told the Herald. “I feel like I have lost my half brother, since I am only a few years older.”
When his grandfather lost the aquarium, Trupkin said Stout was extremely worried about what would happen to the young manatee. Stout began making contacts in Bradenton and the rest is Snooty history. But Trupkin and his family have always remained close to Snooty in remembrance of his grandfather, who suffered a fatal heart attack in 1955.
“All through the years, my family would make trips to Bradenton to see him,” Trupkin said. “The family, my mom, which would be Sam’s daughter, would always talk about Baby. We would make many trips over the years, and years later I began taking my own children.”
Over the years, friends and relatives from across the country who knew of the family’s connection to Snooty would send Trupkin news articles about Snooty, especially from his annual birthday bashes.
Trupkin’s 18-year-old grandson texted him on the day of Snooty’s death, simply writing, “I’m so sad.”
Bradenton loved Snooty, but so did much of the country, which is why City Councilman Gene Gallo called the death of Snooty a tragic day.
I think that Snooty was part of what made Bradenton a destination.
Bradenton City Councilman Gene Gallo
“It was tragic to hear,” Gallo said. “I was in church Sunday when I received a text from the fire department about what had happened to Snooty. My mind immediately went back to my first encounter with Snooty when I was 15. Snooty, I believe, was in a round metal tank and I was just a teenager and Snooty was just a teenager at that time.”
Gallo said Snooty’s death, in particular the way it happened, is a great loss.
“I think that Snooty was part of what made Bradenton a destination,” Gallo said. “There are people from all over the country that would come to the museum, I think specifically to see Snooty. Snooty will be missed. It’s a shame that he passed the way he did, but life will go on.”
Gallo said he hopes the museum will consider carrying on Snooty’s legacy and be allowed to consider a Snooty II.
The life of Snooty
July 21, 1948: Snooty is born on The Prinz Valdemar, a Danish warship that capsized in the Miami harbor in 1926 and later became a floating restaurant and the Miami Aquarium Tackle Company.
1949: ‘Baby Snoots’ comes to Bradenton for the Desoto Celebration.
1966: Snooty moves to the newly constructed South Florida Museum.
1979: Manatee County Commissioners declare Snooty to be the county’s official mascot.
1982: Snooty gains even wider fame when the children’s television show, Captain Kangaroo, films him as part of a documentary on manatees.
1985: A hydrophone placed in Snooty’s tank reveals for the first time the high-pitched squeaks as Snooty’s vocalization.
1987: Snooty begins training to aid researchers trying to determine how well manatees hear at different frequencies.
1993: Snooty moves into his newest home, a 60,000-gallon exhibit in the newly constructed Parker Manatee Aquarium.
1998: The Parker Manatee Aquarium joins the Manatee Rehabilitation Network and is introduced to his first tank mate, Newton. During his life, Snooty hosted 33 rehabilitating manatees.
2008: Snooty celebrates his 60th birthday at his annual Birthday Bash and Wildlife Festival. His life history makes him one of the most renowned stewards for endangered species and the environment.
2013: More than 6,000 guests visit the South Florida Museum to celebrate Snooty’s historic 65th birthday. It’s the largest crowd in the museum’s history.
2015: Snooty is officially certified as the world’s oldest captive manatee by Guiness World Records.
July 22, 2017: Snooty enjoys a birthday cake of fruits and vegetables at his 69th birthday celebration.
July 23, 2017: The South Florida Museum announces that Snooty has died in a tragic accident.
Information provided by South Florida Museum