DNR veterinarian Dr. Al Segars said manatee sightings are scattered throughout the year in South Carolina, but sightings are more common along the coast once the water starts to warm.
Segars says feeding or watering a manatee leads to a change in their behavior. He says the animals return to marinas and docks looking for food and water, and end up being injured or even killed by boats.
“This seemingly fun, harmless behavior indeed is really very harmful to the animal,” Segars said. “It’s altering their behavior in a way that puts them at a much higher risk for getting hit by a boat.”
He wants people to know that the action is illegal and could eventually lead to a manatee’s death. “I think once 99% of the people understand that, they’ll say, ‘Wow this is an amazing animal and I don’t want to do anything that could inflict harm or increase the risk of it being harmed’ and then they’re going to stop,” Segars said.
Segars also said he does realize there are some people that will disregard his warning and continue to feed and provide water to the manatees. That’s when he says law enforcement will get involved. “It is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” he noted.
DNR encourages anyone who sees a manatee to report their sighting at the agency’s website or call their hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
Patrick Ingraham filed this report