Manatees are showing up in the Carolinas. Look, but don’t touch - it’s illegal
Summer is coming, and with warming temperatures along the coast, the Carolinas could see more manatees this year.
These usual tourists from Florida have always considered the coast as far north as Virginia to be part of their natural territory, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Once listed as endangered, the manatee population has bounced back since the 1990s, the FWS says. Both types of manatee are now listed as “threatened.”
“When aerial surveys began in 1991, there were an estimated 1,267 manatees in Florida. Today there are more than 6,300 in Florida, representing a significant increase over the past 25 years,” according to FWS.
There are an estimated 13,000 manatees over their entire range, the FWS reports.
Average adult manatees grow to 10 feet long and about 1,000 pounds, according to the FWS.
Manatees need warm water to survive, with a temperature of at least 68 degrees, and they spend most of their time in fresh water and estuaries, according to the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.
As the population grows in Florida, more manatees are making the trip north, Coastal Review Online reports.
Manatee sightings in North Carolina have come as early as April and May, but normally don’t begin until summer starts in June “and continue through late fall,” state Division of Marine Fisheries biologist Victoria Thayer told the Coastal Review.
The sea cows are a regular summer sight in the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Island Packet reports. But that means boaters need to be careful as these slow-moving creatures visit rivers and coastal areas in the Carolinas.
“Collisions with boats are the primary cause of human-related deaths,” according to the Marine Mammal Commission.
“Because of their irresistibly charming faces, it’s so tempting to throw these gentle giants a bit of lettuce or give them water from a hose. However, manatees are federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, just as dolphins and whales are,” according to the South Carolina Aquarium.
“That means that it is illegal to be within 50 yards of them in a watercraft,” the aquarium warns.