Manatees on the Move This Summer Season
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—June 26, 2020
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Note: A high-resolution version of the David Schrichte manatee photo, or other manatee photos, and the public service ad below are available upon request.
Although summer may feel different this year, it is still a regular busy season for migratory manatees. With temperatures heating up for the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend, manatees are on the move, and Save the Manatee Club reminds boaters and vacationers throughout the southeast to keep a watchful eye for this imperiled species.
In the summer months, manatees can be found beyond their winter sanctuaries in Florida. They travel freely around coastal waters in Alabama as well as in Georgia and South Carolina. A few manatees have even been spotted as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts. While these further destinations are relatively rare, it is still important for boaters throughout the Gulf and East Coasts to be mindful of manatees, especially in certain habitats.
Designated manatee protection zones in Florida can signify areas where manatees have been regularly documented, but the slow-moving mammals can be found in all types of rivers, bays, estuaries, and coastal ecosystems. Manatees are more likely to prefer shallower waters (about 3–7 feet deep) and areas with aquatic vegetation, like seagrass beds. Boating slowly in these areas and looking for snouts, backs, tails, and flippers can help you spot manatees.
Florida residents and visitors should report dead, orphaned, beached, entangled, tagged, harassed, or sick manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). But any manatees outside of Florida should be reported to local wildlife officials as well, even if it is simply a sighting. “Thanks to our citizen science data, we now know that manatees are regular seasonal visitors to Alabama and the northern Gulf,” explains Elizabeth Hieb, Research Technician at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) in Alabama. The DISL’s Manatee Sighting Network has already received sighting reports this year from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. “This data is important to help inform conservation and recovery actions for manatees across their entire range in the southeastern U.S.,” says Hieb. Sightings can be reported to the DISL at 1-866-493-5803.
Before heading out on the water this weekend, review how to determine if a manatee is in trouble and where to report sightings or call for help in your area at savethemanatee.org/rescue. Save the numbers or take a picture of wildlife reporting information to have it handy on your phone. If you live or boat in the Gulf Coast or southeastern states where manatees are found, you can also request free resources, like boating safety packets to keep on board or awareness signs to hang on your dock, at savethemanatee.org/resources.
Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).
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