BRADENTON -- Despite rumors that 66-year-old Snooty the manatee had passed away Wednesday night, South Florida Museum officials said Thursday he is alive and well.
"There was a Facebook post on what appeared to be a fan page that was a hoax," said Jessica Schubick, communications manager for the South Florida Museum. "It said it was from the museum and that Snooty passed away, but that, of course, has not happened, we're very glad to say. It appears to have just been a cruel hoax that spread very quickly."
The museum had been receiving calls asking about the oldest known manatee's rumored death since 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Schubick said.
Lorraine Young, who handles visitor services for the museum, said she'd gotten about a dozen calls by 11:30 a.m.
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"We've had parents call in saying, 'My child heard Snooty died and I can't get her to stop crying, is Snooty really dead?'" Young said. "We say, 'No, he's fine.'"
Schubick said the Facebook page where the rumor started was not affiliated with the South Florida Museum, Snooty's home since he was about a year old.
"So that's a good lesson to make sure that the page you're looking at has that blue 'verified' check," she said.
Schubick said the crowd waiting to see Snooty's feeding at 11:15 a.m. Thursday looked a little bigger than normal.
"People really care about and love Snooty," she said. "He's been part of their family for generations, so the thought of him dying can be pretty emotional."
There were about 25 people there to see Snooty's feeding Thursday morning, and he was interacting normally with people and the two other manatees, Ace and Myakklemore. He swam around, came up playfully for cameras and ate the lettuce that was hand-fed to him.
Snooty was raised in captivity and is the oldest known manatee at 66 years old. The average lifespan of a wild manatee is 13 years old.
The public can see Snooty's feedings and a presentation at 11:45 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. on Sundays.