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Fate of manatee stuck in NJ uncertain

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October 17, 2009 07:19 PM EST | AP

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TRENTON, N.J. — The fate of a Florida manatee that has wandered into northern New Jersey waters remained unclear Saturday night.

The wayward male – known as Ilya – has been stuck near a Linden oil refinery, and officials say plunging temperatures and a lack of food were endangering its life. And while the gentle sea cow appears to be in good health, it had been huddling near an outfall pipe at an oil refinery – the only place it could find warm water.

Officials with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in New Jersey say Ilya was last seen Friday afternoon.

They had hoped to make a rescue attempt that day, but continuing bad weather along the New Jersey shore has stymied efforts.

Charles Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Florida, said Ilya went missing Friday after eating a case of lettuce fleeing into a small river.