Bama migrates between Alabama in the summer and Florida in the winter
This timid female manatee made history on September 4, 2009, when she became the first manatee ever captured and tagged in Alabama waters by Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network (MSN). She was affectionately dubbed “Bama” and quickly became a local celebrity in Mobile Bay. Her key identifying feature is a scar on the left side of her back, near the middle of her body, which was caused by a boat propeller. When she was captured and tagged in 2009, Bama was nine feet long and weighed approximately 1,020 pounds. Based on satellite tag and photo identification data, researchers learned that she migrates seasonally between Alabama and Florida. In the two years she was tracked, she enjoyed summer stays in Mobile Bay and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and wintered in Crystal River, Florida. During these seasonal migrations, one of her preferred stopovers was Apalachicola Bay in the Florida Panhandle, where she often stayed for several months. After losing her tag in 2011, she evaded researchers until 2012, when she was sighted in Wakulla Springs State Park in the Florida Panhandle. She has also been sighted more than once in mating herds in Dog River, which is a tributary of Mobile Bay.
Manatees are primarily concentrated in peninsular Florida in the winter, usually November through March. But in the summer months, they are much more widely distributed, and sightings in the northern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coast states are relatively common. It was in 2007 that Dauphin Island Sea Lab started their Manatee Sighting Network to track manatees in Mobile Bay and the surrounding waters. The MSN team continues to monitor manatee migrations and habitat use in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
A portion of proceeds from adoptions of Bama are used to help fund MSN’s awareness and outreach efforts. MSN promotes manatee education by distributing Save the Manatee Club’s public awareness waterway signs and boat decals in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.