Boaters along the coastline should use caution for the first time this year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has spotted manatees in South Carolina.
“A manatee is a marine animal, also known as a sea cow. They’re generally very slow moving animals. They’re very docile. They have no natural enemies,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Nicole Adimey.
Adimey says every spring and summer manatees move north up the coast for feeding and mating. Although these near one ton, 10 feet long sea creatures have no natural enemies, they do run into one major hazard.
“Their interactions with watercraft and because of the dark water surrounding various areas around the coastline, sometimes they’re very difficult to locate in the water and boaters may not even know they’re around their boat when they’re swimming around. About 25 percent of the population is hit annually and we have deaths associated with the water crafts,” says Adimey.
These collisions are more likely to occur in shallow waters because that’s where manatees normally migrate to. Adimey says she is noticing an increase in the number of manatees, specifically along the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.
“I personally believe it’s an artifact of several things; one, people are more aware of what a manatee is and they know what to look for, and we have more reporting from the general public. And I think that there is an increase in their population and an increase in their range. I think there’s a variety of things that are going on maybe from an environmental standpoint, different season patterns and climate changes,” says Adimey.
Manatees usually return to Florida in September for the winter months, but before they do, Adimey says to just use caution, and do not ffeed the mammals.