Howie is manatee with a notorious past
Howie is a male manatee and has been returning to Blue Spring State Park’s warm spring waters every winter since he was first identified in 1971. He is one of the most popular manatees at the park, and he has developed a reputation for being playful and a bit of a mischief-maker. The most notorious incident involved Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley, Tom O’Shea, a former researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project, and the research canoe, which contained all of their equipment—including several cameras. “In front of the viewing platform crowded with visitors, Tom pointed out Howie approaching, but we thought nothing of it,” said Wayne. “However, Howie was playing with other manatees and hadn’t noticed us. When he bumped our canoe, it startled him, and he lunged forward. Just as Tom and I congratulated ourselves on surviving the lunge, Howie’s tail hit the canoe as he fled. We tumbled out, and the cameras were left in a foot of water in the canoe. Now when I’m in the run taking photos or measurements and I look up and see Howie has just come in, my thought is: Go on Howie, up the run. PLEASE ignore me!”
Like most manatees living in the wild, Howie can be identified by his scars, which are mainly located on his paddle-shaped tail. He is a favorite of Wayne, who tracks his return to Blue Spring each winter, along with Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate. Howie is usually one of the first manatees to show up for the season, and he is often one of the last to leave. Like the scamp that he is, he sometimes arrives at the park just after Wayne and Cora have finished taking “manatee roll call” in the morning. During the 2017 – 2018 season, Howie was part of a group of males chasing a female named Lemon around the spring run. Five years earlier, he was also part of a group of 10 male manatees reported in a ditch behind the Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida, which located on the banks of Lake Monroe, a waterway that is connected to the St. Johns River. Howie and the other males had ended up there after pursuing a lovely young female named Pine. Fortunately, all was okay, and the manatees were able to get out and return to Lake Monroe, none the worse for their experience.
During manatee season, check our Blue Spring webcams for updates on the latest news on Lenny and other Blue Spring manatees.