Captain Rick spotted this manatee at the IOP fuel dock this week, as it headed for a source of fresh water. He had his camera and was able to get these great shots. The gentle giants will be moving through our area all summer, and they are often in danger from boat strikes. Sometimes, people think they are helping the manatees by providing them with fresh water, but this is illegal and actually puts them in more danger, because they begin to want to get closer to docks and people. Last July 3, we saw three manatees from the front beach.
SCDNR’s newsletter this week reminds us: “The first manatees of the season will soon be spotted along the coast of South Carolina, which means the S.C. Department of Natural Resources is again reminding boaters to be on the lookout to avoid collisions with the endangered animals.”
With an estimated population of only 3,000 animals in U.S. waters, manatees, also known as sea cows,
are protected as an endangered species under federal and South Carolina law. Dangers to the species include boat strikes, entanglement in fishing gear and harmful algal blooms known as red tides. The colder than normal winter in Florida this year also raised the mortality rate for manatees.
Although Florida manatees are present throughout the year in Florida, they are migratory in South Carolina. Manatees begin their slow migration up the South Carolina coast each spring when water temperatures rise into the upper 60s. They can be found in tidal rivers, estuaries and near-shore marine waters throughout Georgia and the Carolinas throughout the summer months. Manatees return to Florida in September and October as the water temperature cools.
Adult manatees are about 10 feet long and weigh up to 1 ton. Their skin varies from gray to brown, and their bodies are rounded with two pectoral flippers and a wide, flat tail. Subsisting on marsh grass and other aquatic plants, the animals are gentle and pose no threat to humans. It is illegal to hunt, play with or harass manatees, this includes touching, watering or attempting to feed. (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, June 1, 2011.) Read the whole article here.
If you see a manatee, report it as a live manatee sighting. You can also call Nicole Adimey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (904) 731-3079 or (904) 655-0730 to report the sighting. She can also be reached at Nicole_Adimey@fws.gov. Please note the date, time, location and number of manatees seen, as well as the coordinates, if possible. Photographs of scars on their backs and tails are especially useful because they can often be used to identify previously known manatees.
Report an injured or dead manatee by calling the DNR Hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
SCDNR suggests the following safety procedures:
Here are some other ways South Carolina residents can help protect manatees:
- Look around for manatees before cranking your boat’s motor.
- Use caution when navigating in shallow water and along the edge of a marsh. Manatees cannot dive away from boats in these areas.
- Please heed “slow speed,” “no wake” and manatee warning signs, especially around docks.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare, making it easier to spot manatees below the surface.
- Watch for large swirls in the water called footprints that may be caused by manatees diving away from the boat.
- Dock owners should never feed manatees or give them fresh water. This could teach the animals to approach docks, putting them at greater risk of a boat strike, and it is illegal.
- Never pursue, harass or play with manatees. It is bad for the manatees and is illegal.